Lawmakers Tackle Alabama’s Persistent Prison Problems

Posted by .

 1472031968 
1553177891
donaldson-prison-landscape

Gigi Douban,WBHM

Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded, understaffed, and plagued by violence. A federal judge ruled mental health care for inmates is “horrendously inadequate.” There have been 15 suicides in as many months – including one earlier this month. Two inmates were stabbed and killed recently as well. While overcrowding has eased slightly, state lawmakers know there’s more work to do. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with state Sen. Cam Ward, a leading voice on prison issues, to get a sense of where lawmakers stand during this legislative session.

Interview Highlights

How lawmakers view the prison system currently:

“I think the appetite is more in light of some of the violence you’ve seen inside the prisons … It has a huge impact on it, not only the discussion inside the statehouse but also what some of the things the court has said. The court has clearly said these conditions are no longer acceptable. So I think the court’s order, in addition to the daily publicity of the horror inside the prisons, has changed the perspective of a lot of lawmakers.”

What lawmakers can do:

“Primarily it’s going to be a financial issue. You’ve got to pay for it. None of this is going to be free. You’re going to have to come up with the money in your budget to pay for it and that’s why I think last year we did $90 million additional dollars in the budget. This year we’re going to do another $40 million on top of that. So it’s primarily numbers and hiring the staff necessary to staff the prisons. That’s a big part of our problem right now.”

How he views Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposal to build three regional mens prisons, possibly through a lease:

“I think she has a very good plan and here’s why: It doesn’t require us to take out or borrow money to incur indebtedness. It doesn’t require you to increase the Department of Corrections budget. And what she’s doing is by leasing it back from an entity that builds it, you would in all essence be running and operating prisons the way we do now, just whoever holds the lease to the building would be a different person. It would be run and operated by us, just like we do now. And it would help alleviate some of the security concerns that a lot of officers have in the current facilities, which right now we’re just band-aiding back together … It pays for them by closing older decrepit buildings that are requiring huge amounts of money each year for maintenance.”

 

Andrew Yeager

Andrew Yeager

Host/Reporter



Alabama Governor Signs Near-total Abortion Ban Into Law
05-15-2019

Alabama’s Republican governor signed the most stringent abortion legislation in the nation Wednesday, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

Alabama Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Nearly All Abortions
05-15-2019

The Alabama Senate passed a bill Tuesday evening to ban nearly all abortions. The state House had already overwhelmingly approved the legislation. It’s part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion.

Bill Would Hold Back Third Graders Who Don’t Read Proficiently
05-3-2019

A bill making its way through the Alabama Legislature requires that third graders read proficiently by the end of third grade or else be held back. The state consistently ranks near the bottom on national achievement tests in reading.

Alabama House Approves Near Total Abortion Ban
04-30-2019

The Alabama House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to outlaw almost all abortions in the state as conservatives took aim at the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Alabama Committee Advances Bill to Outlaw Abortion
04-18-2019

Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday advanced one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation, a measure that would make performing an abortion a felony with almost no exceptions.