Groups oppose $725 million Alabama bond sale for building prisons

 1565937469 
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.

 

Local health officials plan to increase monkeypox vaccinations

Health officials will soon begin offering intradermal vaccinations, reaching more people with less vaccine.

Combating gun violence remains a top focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As violent crime in Birmingham and the surrounding area continues to increase, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Prim Escalona, uses a variety of tools and strategies to get firearms and bad guys off the street.

Some 3rd graders in local schools could be held back under new law 

This is the first school year that third graders who do not read at grade level by the end of the school year must be held back in that grade, rather than passed on to fourth grade. The Alabama Literacy Act was passed several years ago, but its implementation was delayed because of the pandemic.

How one Birmingham custodian preps for the first day of school

When the kids are away, the custodial and maintenance staff in schools work all summer long. One custodian told WBHM about what it takes to keep the kids happy and healthy as they trade sunshine for fluorescent lights.

Dollar store workers are organizing for a better workplace. Just don’t call it a union.

Fired up by a labor movement that’s seen big union victories recently, dollar store workers are organizing in their own way to improve work conditions.

Bill Clark has a knack for making comebacks. Will he make one more? 

Bill Clark has had to overcome some serious hurdles during his career at UAB, as well as in his personal life. He not only resurrected a football program that had been neglected—and then out-right killed—he’s also been fighting through what he’s called a serious injury since childhood.

More Front Page Coverage