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Governor signs leases for two new prisons, but full details haven’t been disclosed

Construction on the Elmore County prison is to begin later this year, according to the contract.

Gov. Kay Ivey signing a lease agreement to build new prisons in Alabama. (VIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has signed 30-year leases for two new prisons to be built in Escambia and Elmore counties, with an initial payment of $94 million in 2025, the governor’s office said Monday. The contracts themselves contain scant details on the finances of the project, which is estimated to cost more than $3 billion.

Those financial details won’t be released until CoreCivic settles all of the company’s banking agreements and all such financial terms are signed off on by CoreCivic, Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, which is to happen on June 1, according to the contracts.

That initial payment to CoreCivic is higher than the $88 million cap Ivey and her administration had publicly promised. Ivey’s office put that increase to indexing, an accounting tool used to adjust for inflation, according to an overview of the deal released by Ivey’s office Monday.  

The Elmore County prison, to be located on Rifle Range Road in Tallassee, is to be leased from a CoreCivic-aligned LLC named Government Real Estate Solutions of Central Alabama, formed in Delaware on Dec. 4, according to the contract

Delaware does not collect or release the names of owners of a corporation, so the state is popular with those seeking anonymity when forming corporations. 

The Escambia prison, to be located on Bell Fork Road near Atmore, is leased from CoreCivic-aligned Government Real Estate Solutions of South Alabama, also formed in Delaware, according to that contract

CoreCivic’s disclosure statement accompanying both contracts lists Toby Roth of Montgomery-based Capital Resources as the lobbyist who was involved with the project. 

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Lucibeth Mayberry, executive vice president of real estate at CoreCivic, signed both leases as authorized signatory of both Delaware-based corporations, according to the contracts. 

The contracts released by Ivey’s office Monday does not include details on the financials, and instead lists as “confidential” the information that would have been on the contracts’ attached exhibits titled “LESSOR’S INITIAL FINANCING PLAN.” Other details in the contracts are also not included in the released contracts and labeled as “confidential,” including design and maintenance, utility management, environmental and sustainability services, help desk services, plant services and roads, grounds and landscaping maintenance services. 

“Trade secrets and security-related information – including facility layout and design – cannot and will not be disclosed in accordance with State law,” Ivey’s office said in the overview released Monday. 

“I am pleased that we have reached this important milestone in the Alabama Prison Program, the cornerstone of a multifaceted strategy to address the ADOC’s longstanding challenges and failing prison infrastructure,” Ivey said in a statement Monday. “ADOC’s existing dilapidated infrastructure is failing at a rate of one facility every two years, exorbitant deferred maintenance costs are rising by the day, and the Courts may act imminently if real progress is not made soon – given all these risks, there is not one minute to spare.”

Negotiations on a third prison, to be built in Bibb County, are ongoing, according to Ivey’s office. That prison is slated to be built and leased to the state by the group Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, made up of Star America, BL Harbert International, Butler-Cohen,  Arrington Watkins Architects and Johnson Controls. 

The U.S. Department of Justice in December filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, alleging violations of inmates’ constitutional rights to protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence, sexual abuse and excessive force by prison guards. 

In previously released reports the Justice Department detailed systemic problems of abuse from guards, corruption, rampant drug use, violence, overcrowding and understaffing in Alabama’s prisons. The DOJ in those reports states that while new prison facilities might help in some areas, new buildings won’t fully address the state’s widespread, deadly problems in its prisons.

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ADOC officials have also said the new prisons alone won’t solve the overcrowding issues in state prisons. Suggested prison reform legislation that might have helped address overcrowding stalled last year when the COVID-19 pandemic ended the state’s legislative session early.

Birmingham-based Regions Bank announced Friday the bank will not continue a line of credit with CoreCivic beyond the company’s contractual obligation, which runs through 2023. 

CoreCivic has faced increased public pushback for providing housing for immigrants for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, some of which held children in cages along the U.S. border, which spurred condemnation and lawsuits alleging mistreatment and abuse of those detained. CoreCivic has lost funding access to numerous other banks, and its stock was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings in August 2020. 

“It is no secret that, due to decades of inaction and a lack of resources, our correctional system is at a crossroads. Thanks to Governor Ivey’s vision, tenacity, and leadership, we have reached an important step in our continued work to chart a transformative new course for the Department,” said ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn in a statement. “Leasing, staffing, and operating modernized prison infrastructure that is owned and strictly maintained by the private sector minimizes our short- and long-term risk for an initiative of this necessary magnitude. These facilities will provide a safer, more secure environment in which our heroic staff can better deliver effective, evidence-based rehabilitative programming to our inmate population.”

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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