Governor Ivey called legislators to a special session on Monday, September 27, 2021. The Alabama Senate was presented with a bill that addressed the prison infrastructure in the state.
After the Prison Infrastructure Bill package was passed through the House, Ivey stated, “Addressing our decades-long prison infrastructure challenges is not easy, but sometimes, doing the right thing and the hard thing are one in the same. This is not a victory lap because there is more legislative work to be done this week; this is the halfway point for the prison construction bills. I am extremely proud of the members of the Alabama House of Representatives for their hard work and support. The work done today will help lead to solutions that will greatly benefit all Alabamians for decades to come.”
Ivey’s original $785 million plan called from the Legislature to, “consider legislation to authorize the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority to issue additional bonds in an amount not to exceed $785 million to finance and implement a prison modernization plan in a phased approach that would replace existing Department of Corrections bed space through the construction of a new specialized men’ facility on state-owned land in Elmore County to provide enhanced medical, mental and other health care, substance abuse and addiction treatment and educational and other programming services.”
Among this it would also allow for the construction of a new prison facility for male inmates on state land in Escambia County and the construction of a new women’s facility on state land in Elmore County.
The Legislature was also asked to consider making appropriations from the general fund up to $154 million from funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) no more than $400 million.
The Senate was able to use these funds because it would normally be going into the general fund as off-revenue. According to Senator Steve Livingston, the number from the end of the last calendar year was around $533 million dollars of lost revenue . The Senate was able to utilize $400 million from those funds left over. In addition, $130 million left over from the last budget cycle was also able to be used, bringing the total number of funds up to $537 million.
Alabama will be paying cash for one prison and the second prison will be a bond issue.
“We basically have taken a $2.3 – $2.2 billion plan that the governor had put together and scaled it down into a plan that the legislature is much more agreeable to,” Livingston stated. “There is also much less risk in the financing contingencies of it. We ended up with a plan to pay $537 million and then bond the other one. It gives us a little more control of those two facilities.”
The other measures on the bill were under Specified criminal-justice reform bills, A. Retroactivity of 2013 sentencing standards and B. Mandatory supervision of inmates re-entering society.
“Currently, as an inmate reached the end of sentence (EOS), they’re basically given their clothes back and a stipend to get them on a bus, and they’re turned loose,” Livingston stated. “This bill is a common sense measure that will increase the public safety of Alabamians by allowing for the supervised release and electronic monitoring of certain prison inmates upon their re-entry to society.
It allows Pardons and Paroles to be able to monitor these individuals and provides an avenue to ensure the rehabilitation process is taking place, ultimately addressing the state’s recidivism crisis. Instead of simply releasing a prisoner back onto the street, the state will be able to drug test them, utilize ankle monitors to know where they are and what they are doing and gives us control over these individuals as they transition back into society.
The Caucus has been told the recidivism is reduced by 15% for those that have a transitional period before end of sentence. If accurate, this will result in a significant number of victims that are never victimized.
In the absence of this law, the inmate would be released at the end of their sentence with no supervision or monitoring whatsoever. Imagine an inmate going from 24/7 incarceration to 100% freedom. That is a recipe for re-offense, so it seems that an incarceration period would certainly help. It also allows us to give them the paperwork they will need to go out and find a job, such as a driver’s license and other documents sought after by employers.
Simply put, this measure will help prevent released inmates from hitting the street, committing additional crimes and returning to prison. It will, instead, allow our state to make sure that released prisoners who have done their time have a better opportunity to become productive, law-abiding members of society. It will also give our state the ability to quickly re-incarcerate them if they fail to do so.”