Groups oppose $725 million Alabama bond sale for building prisons

 1623682965 
1656408355
The exterior of Bibb County Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Brent, Alabama, March 13, 2020.

The exterior of Bibb County Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Brent, Alabama, March 13, 2020.

Mary Scott Hodgin, WBHM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A coalition of advocacy groups is opposing Alabama’s plan to sell $725 million in bonds to finance construction of two new supersize prisons.

The Communities Not Prisons coalition, a group formed to oppose the construction, and other organizations issued statements Monday opposing the looming bond sale. The state is expected to go to the bond market on Tuesday, to provide financing for the construction plan. That money will be added to $135 million in state funds and $400 million in pandemic relief dollars that the state already agreed to put toward the construction project.

The prisons are to house up to 4,000 inmates and replace existing facilities. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, and lawmakers who approved the plan last year, have touted it as a partial solution to the state’s longstanding prison woes. Critics argue the state is ignoring the bigger issues — prison staffing levels and leadership — to focus on buildings.

The bonds would have a 2052 maturity date.

“It means that this is a project to marry our state to mass incarceration for the better part of this century. It means that Alabamians, and Black Alabamians in particular, will continue to be incarcerated and brutalized by the Alabama Department of Corrections on a breathtaking scale,” Veronica Johnson, executive director of the Alabama Justice Initiative, said in a statement.

The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority, which is chaired by Ivey, met briefly at the Alabama Capitol last week to approve the sale of the bonds. The buildings would be leased by the Finance Authority to the state prison system and the bonds would be secured the lease payments from the state general fund budget.

Activists previously helped halt the construction project.

The bond sale comes after the construction plan — which was pursued under two different administrations — hit various snags over the years. An earlier version of the plan would have seen the state lease prisons built and owned by private companies. But that fell through after underwriters withdrew under pressure from activists to not be involved with private prison companies.

The U.S. Department of Justice has an ongoing lawsuit against the state over prison conditions.

For more on Alabama’s prison crisis listen to WBHM’s podcast Deliberate Indifference.

 

As dollar stores continue rural expansion, a Louisiana parish found a new way to push back

Tangipahoa Parish blocked a new Dollar General from opening in a case that could set a precedent for other communities looking to keep discount retailers out.

A family’s search for their native and formerly enslaved heritage in South Alabama

The Tate Family has spent nearly two decades uncovering records that establish their ancestors' time in Alabama before its statehood.

Thousands across Alabama live without access to public water

In rural Marion County, some residents do the only thing they can think to do: call their legislator and cry.

Jon Batiste reflects on the South’s musical history: ‘I’m rooted in something bigger than me’

Before a recent concert in Birmingham, the Grammy-winning jazz pianist took time to learn more about the city’s history and influence on American music.

A court ruled embryos are children. These Christian couples agree yet wrestle with IVF choices

How do you build a family in a way that conforms with your beliefs? Is IVF an ethical option, especially if it creates more embryos than a couple can use? The dilemma reflects the age-old friction between faith and science at the heart of the recent IVF controversy in Alabama, where the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos have the legal status of children.

Community effort boosts reading scores at BCS

Results from the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program released last month showed 81% of third graders in the district are now reading at or above grade level. This is up from just 53% on the previous year’s standardized test.

More Front Page Coverage