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Alabama Department of Correction’s coronavirus plan not ready

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections doesn’t yet have a plan for how to deal with coronavirus in state prisons, according to the department. 

“The ADOC will work with the ADPH and other state agencies to develop our Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), as the Department has in previous years in formulating our pandemic response,” wrote ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a statement to APR on Monday, referring to the Alabama Department of Public Health by the acronym “ADPH.”  

Former Gov. Bob Riley in 2009 signed a directive that all state departments had to draft a “Continuity of Operations Plan” for how to cope with such health emergencies, called the Pandemic Influenza and All-Hazard COOP Directive.

Rose said in the statement that ADOC is following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADPH to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and is working in partnership with Gov. Kay Ivey’s newly-formed COVID-19 task force to “ review policies, procedures, and containment protocols specific to this issue.”

“The Department is taking proactive steps to protect the health and well-being of inmates and staff, including the distribution of educational information on prevention and intervention as well as screening inmates for signs and symptoms of the disease, as recommended by the ADPH,” the statement reads.

Asked to clarify whether the department doesn’t yet have a plan in place to handle a possible outbreak of the virus in state prisons, Rose responded Tuesday morning that the COVID-19 is an evolving situation.

“…the ADOC did not previously have a plan specific to this exact issue, nor did any other public or private entity. The Department is working closely with the below-mentioned agencies and Governor Ivey’s newly announced task force to modify its existing plans appropriately to address the unique nature and potential impact of COVID-19,” Rose said in a message.

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Local governments are canceling public gatherings, and universities are calling off overseas travel and sending students home to take classes online, but many also worry that prisons and jails are especially vulnerable. 

COVID-19 is known to be able to spread rapidly among people kept in confined spaces, such as cruise ships and nursing homes, and hygiene in prison and jails is often lacking. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the odds of developing COVID-19 increases for those over the age of 60, and the disease is especially problematic those older people with underlying health problems. Those over 80 are in particular danger of death from COVID-19, according to the WHO.

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According to ADOC statistics in December incarcerated people ages 60 and over made up just more than 7 percent of the state’s prison population, with just under 2,000 people ages 60 and over serving time in state facilities. 

There were 4,118 people ages 51-60 serving in state prisons in December, according to ADOC’s figures. 

“The risk of community spread poses a critical and unique threat to vulnerable populations, including those in our prisons and jails,” Sen. Kamala Harris , D-California, wrote in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on March 5. 

Prisons in China are grappling with a coronavirus outbreak. More than 500 prisoners last week were infected with the virus, according to the Associated Press

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is screening inmates and staff about whether they’ve traveled to countries with COVID-19 outbreaks, or been around anyone who’s tested positive, according to The Associated Press. 

A District Court judge in New York City on Friday ordered all inmates at a nearby federal jail to be screened, and ordered them not to appear in court if they had temperatures at 100.4 degrees or higher. 

Iran has temporarily freed about 70,000 prisoners to combat the spread of the virus, according to the news agency Reuters.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Governor surveys damage from Hurricane Sally

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held press conferences in Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island after touring the storm damaged Alabama Gulf Coast, which was battered by Hurricane Sally last week.

Three Alabama counties have been approved for individual and public assistance from FEMA. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties were approved for both IA and PA.

“When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief,” Ivey said in a statement. “My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Doug Jones also toured the damaged areas.

“I appreciate FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for quickly getting down to Alabama to check out the damage from #Sally,” Byrne said. ”President Trump has already approved Alabama’s request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance, so I encourage everyone to register for help from FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362. Residents of Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties are currently eligible.”

“President Trump and his team have been outstanding to work with in making sure Alabama gets the help we need and deserve,” Byrne continued.

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Ivey toured the area by helicopter to survey the damage.

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

 

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“I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover it is really, really bad,” Ivey said.

Over 200,000 people lost electric power due to Hurricane Sally. Alabama Power said Sunday that more than 99 percent of those people have had their power restored.

“Our electric companies are making progress every hour to restore power,” Byrne said. “A lot more work remains, but know that crews are working hard to get all the power back online. Hurricane Sally caused major damage to our electric infrastructure, and I appreciate all those working to get our lights turned back on.”


Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Power said that it may take into early this week to restore power to some portions of downtown Mobile, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.

“With the Major Disaster Declaration, individuals may apply for disaster aid from FEMA,” Byrne explained.

You can apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).

Even though electric power has been restored, many homes have been severely damaged. Some are a total loss. Most homeowners are still waiting on insurance adjusters to complete their work. There was a lot of roof damage, not just in Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, but also in Foley, Robertsdale, Loxley, Bayou La Batre, Bay Minette and beyond — both from the winds and from the trees that fell.

Some homes near the coast were impacted by the storm surge, but many more well into Baldwin County as well as in Pensacola, Florida, were impacted by flooding. Many people are still in need of supplies for the cleanup as well as daily essentials.

“There are a number of food, water and supply distribution sites across Baldwin County,” Byrne said. “According to Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, these locations have MREs, tarps, bottled water, ice, and other supplies.”

  • Baldwin County Coliseum (Robertsdale)
    19477 Fairground Road Robertsdale, AL
  • Seminole Fire Department
    32268 Highway 90 Seminole, AL
  • Lillian Community Club
    34148 Widell Avenue; Lillian, AL
  • Lana Park (Fairhope)
    523 Volanta Avenue; Fairhope, AL
  • Foley Soccer Complex
    18507 US Highway 98; Foley, AL
  • Orange Beach Community Center
    27235 Canal Road; Orange Beach, AL
  • Gulf Shores SportsPlex
    19025 Oak Road W; Gulf Shores, AL

On Saturday, literally hundreds of cars lined up to pick up supplies from the Robertstale Church of God in Robertsdale.

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores before dawn on Wednesday as a category two storm. Forecasters on Saturday had expected the storm to impact Louisiana but the hurricane turned to the northeast and made landfall in Alabama instead, gaining strength before coming ashore.

“No one expected this storm to be that strong,” Ivey said.

Ivey said most of the piers have been destroyed. Alabama’s State Fishing Pier had just finished a $2.5 million renovation. Now a large portion of the pier is missing. Most of the Gulf State Park campground went underwater. A few campers actually weathered the hurricane in their campers.

Debris removal is ongoing.

The Mobile County Commission announced that it will manage Hurricane Sally debris removal from all areas of Mobile County, located outside the 10 municipalities, except for the Town of Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island will be the only municipality to receive hurricane debris removal managed by the county.

To ensure pick-up removal, residents are asked to adhere to the following guidelines: Only Hurricane Sally-related vegetative and construction and demolition (C&D) debris will be collected. That excludes removal of normal household trash, appliances, electronics and household hazardous waste. Debris must be placed curbside or in right-of-way areas that do not block roadways or storm drains. Do not place material in drainage ditches. Vegetative debris should be piled separately from C&D debris material. Vegetative debris includes tree branches, limbs and non-bagged leaves. C&D debris includes building materials, fencing and bagged materials.

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Corruption

Mike Hubbard’s attorney asks court to reconsider prison sentence

Eddie Burkhalter

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Mike Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, 2020. (VIA LEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE)

One week after he began serving his prison sentence, the attorney for former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has asked the court to reconsider his four-year sentence.

Hubbard, 57, began serving his sentence on Sept. 11 after being free on an appeals bond for four years. He was ultimately convicted on six felony charges of using his office for personal gain.

“Mike Hubbard is not a danger to society, nor a threat to the public and a revised sentence will better serve the State’s interest in rehabilitation and the ends of justice,” Hubbard’s Birmingham attorney, David McKnight, wrote to the Lee County Circuit Court on Friday.

Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.

McKnight, in his motion to the court, argues that due process compels the court to reconsider Hubbard’s sentence, and that his removal from office, loss of the right to vote and “divestment of business interests” have already punished the former House speaker.

The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.

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Aderholt says that low Census response rate will come with big consequences for Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt (VIA CSPAN)

Alabama trails the nation in 2020 Census response and that matters, says Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, in an email to his 4th Congressional District constituents.

“In more ways than we could possibly name, Alabama is the best state in the nation,” Aderholt said. “However, when it comes to the 2020 Census, we are sitting in last place in the country. Currently 81.5% of Alabama households have been counted, but that is nearly 10% less than the national count of 90.1%. I think we can do better, so let’s make Alabama count.”

“Why it Matters. One of the biggest questions asked every decade when the Census comes up is: why does it matter?” Aderholt said. “This is a great question, and I understand why it gets asked so often. So, I want to give you a few different answers that are grounded in facts. Federal Funds: It is estimated that per 100 people not counted in the Census, roughly $1.2 million dollars of federal funding is lost for your community. Here are just a few of the many items that would have funding severely cut due to a lack of Census responses: Schools, roads, hospitals, block grants, vocational education, and fire departments. These are all crucial aspects of living in a community, and they are all at risk of funding decreases.

“Jobs: Census numbers are used by both public and private organizations to determine where to build and bring business. This means that employment opportunities and economic development are at stake when it comes to the Census. This aspect is often overlooked, but it may just be the most consequential of them all. Representation in Congress: You probably know this one already, but Congressional districts are based on population.

“This means that the more people that are counted in your state the more representation your state has in the House of Representatives. For Alabama, we are in danger of losing a Congressional seat, so our count this year matters a great deal. Civil Rights: As a matter of fact, certain programs based around civil rights issues are directly correlated to the Census. Things like compliance with the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, housing, employment, and education anti-discrimination laws are monitored and enforced using the population count from the Census.”

Go to my2020census.gov and follow the instructions on screen, or you can call 844-330-2020.

“I would encourage you all to fill yours out today and make Alabama count for the next decade,” Aderholt said. ‘If you have already completed your Census, please tell your friends and family to fills theirs out and spread the word.”

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Aderholt explained that the Census first started in 1790 and was conducted by Thomas Jefferson. The nation then had a population of just 3,929,214, compared to roughly 328 million today.

“From 1790 to 1879, the Census was counted by Federal Marshals going door-to-door across the country,” Aderholt explained. “Back then they would show up to your house on horseback and fill out the numbers on parchment or animal skin. Although this sounds pretty cool to me, I am sure glad we can do it on our phones now. The Census started out with only 6 questions, then rose to 34 in 1920, but has settled back down to an even 10 the past couple decades.”

The state of Alabama has seven congressional districts currently, but it appears that the state is likely to lose at least one, given the state’s modest growth over the last decade and the people of Alabama’s awful Census response rate.

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Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces a general election challenge from Democratic candidate Rick Neighbors.

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More than 99 percent of power customers have power restored following Sally

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Power said Sunday that 99 percent of customers who lost power in Hurricane Sally have had their power restored.

Alabama Power made the announcement on Twitter Sunday evening. “Alabama Power and assisting crews have restored power to 99% of customers able to receive it following the destruction of Hurricane Sally,” the company said.

More than 4,000 line workers and support personnel from 14 states are helping Alabama Power crews restore power to people of Mobile and Baldwin Counties following Wednesday’s Hurricane Sally. By Friday, outages in Central and Southeast Alabama had been resolved and all efforts were focused on the Mobile and Baldwin County areas, which took the brunt of the storm.

APR was among the reporters touring the area with Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday. Downed power lines were still everywhere but so were convoys of bucket trucks with linemen repairing and in some cases completely rebuilding destroyed power lines.

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Hurricane Sally was the first Hurricane to make landfall in the state of Alabama since 2004. The eye of Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores but the impact was felt across the Alabama Gulf coast, and beyond, into Florida and Mississippi.

“Hurricane Sally will be remembered as the most damaging storm to affect Mobile since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked to restore power, and we’re committed to working alongside community leaders on full recovery efforts for the area.”

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Forecasters had predicted Sally to make landfall in Louisiana as a tropical storm but the storm made a sudden turn to the northeast, gaining strength as it moved just off the coast. Sally made landfall as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds.

“Nobody expected that storm to be so strong,” Ivey told reporters on Friday.

Despite rainy conditions on Saturday, crews worked through the inclement weather conditions from Tropical Storm Beta, which was offshore. Beta is expected to make landfall in Texas and then turn sharply to the northeast, impacting Louisiana before breaking up.

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Beta will bring more rainfall to the Alabama Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the heavy rains and damage caused by Sally. Beta is already causing dangerous riptides off the Alabama coast. Many Texans who had evacuated from their homes due to Hurricane Laura had to evacuate again on Sunday due to Beta.

Alabama Power said that restoration efforts in the hardest-hit areas including downtown Mobile, Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre may extend into early this week.

Alabama Power is part of the Southern Company.

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