Opponents of a prison-building plan have filed a lawsuit to stop the construction of three new men’s prisons, arguing the plan violates the state’s constitution and illegally bypassed the legislature.
The action opens a new front in the battle over the proposed facilities for the Alabama Corrections Department (ADOC). Governor Kay Ivey said the new prisons would tackle an epidemic of violence and overcrowding in state prisons.
The plans have drawn strong opposition from communities who are getting prisons and much unease from the Alabama Legislature.
“ADOC’s hiring and contracting regulations do not allow the governor to negotiate a private deal on their behalf, bypassing ADOC’s bidding regulations and approval process,” indicates the trial.
The plaintiffs are Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler; Representative John Rogers, D-Birmingham; Kenneth Glasgow, Civil Rights Leslie Ogburn, Elmore County resident and arborist whose home and business are near one of the proposed sites.
Gina Maiola, a spokesperson for Ivey, wrote in an email Tuesday evening that the office had not seen the trial.
The lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, cites state law that requires ADOC to obtain “the consent of the legislature before a penitentiary or correctional facility is leased, transferred or placed under.” the management of a non-governmental entity. ” Ivey is pursuing direct negotiations with the companies supposed to operate the facilities.
The lawsuit also argues that the plan unconstitutionally creates new debt and may violate ADOC policies on reviewing new contracts. The plaintiffs want the court to declare the facility leases “null and void” and prevent their execution.
Ivey and ADOC plan to build three new men’s prisons in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia counties, each with a capacity of 3,000 to 4,000 inmates. The governor contracted with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to build the prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties, and with Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, a group of companies including BL Harbert International in Birmingham, to build the prison. in Bibb County.
The companies would set up the facilities. The state would hire them over 30 years and provide staff. The governor’s office says annual facility costs will start at $ 94 million and increase to $ 108.5 million at the end of the lease. The legislature would appropriate the money for the leases.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn has been looking for new prisons for years. He argues that the current state prisons are past their useful life; are not safe for staff and inmates, and do not have space for rehabilitation and training programs that can reduce recidivism.
Several activists and some lawmakers have expressed doubts about the plan, saying the new construction cannot address the culture of violence in men’s prisons. The US Department of Justice sued Alabama last year for violence in the corrections system, saying it violated Eighth Amendment protections for inmates from cruel and unusual punishment.
The installations have also aroused opposition from local communities. Opponents there say they do not have the infrastructure to support the prisons and have expressed anger that they have not been consulted about them.
The legislature in 2016 and 2017 rejected the bond proposals for building new prisons, which led Ivey to pursue the build / lease proposal.
Two financiers withdrew from a bond offer for the prison project earlier this month. Ivey said last week that she would continue to pursue the project. But the governor also suggested that she might consider working with the Legislature to create a bond.
Contact Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser reporter at 334-240-0185 or [email protected]