Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Ivey met with members of the legislative leadership regarding prison infrastructure issues facing the state, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, said that the meeting was “productive.”
“I believe yesterday’s meeting with Gov. Ivey was a productive one that allowed the executive and legislative branches to coordinate our state’s effort to address serious issues within the prison system,” Speaker McCutcheon said.
“All of us understand the importance of bringing the corrections system in compliance with federal court orders, and everyone involved is committed to achieving that goal in a quick and timely manner that provides full accountability to the citizens we seek to serve,” Speaker McCutcheon said.
It appears that Gov. Ivey’s plan to do a private lease-build deal with private prison developers has failed due to the prison companies failure to obtain private funding for the project. Without any other alternative to build new prisons, the Governor is reaching out to legislators to revive a 2017 plan to build the three new megaprisons with a state bond issue. Under this plan, the state would own the prisons themselves rather than a private company. With both plans the Alabama Department of Corrections would have staffed the prisons and been responsible for the inmates care.
“Throughout this process, the Alabama House has promoted plans that we believe best serve the interests of taxpayers and utilize their dollars in the most responsible manner,” McCutcheon said. “We will maintain those priorities as a comprehensive solution to our prison issues is developed.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) was not invited to Wednesday’s meeting; but he is promoting his own prison plan.
“Alabama’s prison problems can be solved at a much lower cost if you don’t care who gets the credit,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler said that while he was not invited to a meeting with Gov. Ivey and legislative leaders to develop ‘Plan B’ on the state’s prison problems; elements of his plan were discussed in those meetings.
Zeigler’s said that his “Operation Fresh Start” plan to build one megaprison instead of three would cost less than a third of the cost of the Ivey plan.
Zeigler says that four of his points are being discussed by legislative leaders: Using bonds to build prisons instead of leasing; building only one new prison, not three; renovating some of the existing prisons; and specific plans other than new buildings to address problems such as safety of staff and other inmates, mental health, suicide prevention, and repeat offenders.
Zeigler says that doing a public bond issue should cost much less than the private lease build option because bond rates are near record lows.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said that addressing the prisons will take a special session on prisons this summer. Gov. Ivey has said that she will not call a special session unless there is an agreement on a plan in advance.
“The meeting with Gov. Ivey is the first of many we will have in the coming days, weeks, and months as we work together to address a problem that has been decades in the making,” McCutcheon said.