Alabama is to pay Montgomery-based Caddell Construction $623 million to build a new prison in Elmore County, according to a contract that etails the terms of the deal to build the 4,000-bed prison for men. APR received the redacted contract Friday.
That contract, which was signed April 15, is for the construction of the prison that’s to provide enhanced medical and mental health services, Gov. Kay Ivey’s spokeswoman, Gina Maiolo, told APR in a message.
The state Legislature in October 2021, approved a $1.3 billion prison construction package which includes plans for two new 4,000-bed prisons for men, to be located in Escambia and Elmore counties. The Legislature also approved transferring $154 million from the General Fund for the new prisons, and the use of $400 million in federal COVID aid to help pay for the new prisons, a controversial move that opponents have said was a misuse of those funds.
APR was the first to report land in Elmore County was being sought to build one of the new prisons.
The U.S. Department of Justice in the federal government’s lawsuit against Alabama alleges unconstitutional treatment of incarcerated men, including a lack of basic health care and mental health care in understaffed and deadly facilities.
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.
Supporters of the prison construction plan say the new facilities are needed to replace some existing dilapidated prisons and to address concerns the federal government spells out in the lawsuit, but critics of the plan worry new prisons won’t solve the systemic problems in Alabama’s prisons.
Despite COVID lockdowns that prevented visitations, drugs still managed to enter Alabama prisons resulting in violence and a rash of likely overdose deaths. Correctional officers’ use of violence against prisoners has also led to several arrests and the recent indictment of one office for allegedly beating three compliant men with a wooden baton.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s previous plan, which called for new prisons to be built by the private prison company CoreCivic and leased to the state, fell through when CoreCivic was unable to secure financing for the deal, following much pressure against financial firms from investing in prisons.