$1B Super-Sized Prison Built in Alabama for “Public Safety”

The Alabama super-size prison, under construction, now costs over $1 billion, complicating the state’s plan for two such facilities.

Alabama’s Super-Sized Prison

The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority has given the green light to a final price of $1.08 billion for the state’s new super-size prison currently under construction in Elmore County.

This staggering cost is set to consume most of the $1.25 billion initially allocated by lawmakers in 2021 for constructing two such facilities, each designed to accommodate 4,000 inmates.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged the price increase, attributing it to inflation. However, she emphasized the critical necessity of the facility for public safety and the state’s criminal justice system.

Ivey stated, “The new prison facilities being built in Alabama are critically important to public safety, to our criminal justice system, and to Alabama as a whole. We have not built new prisons in more than 30 years, and if it was easy, it would have been attempted by a governor before me.”

The Elmore County prison, featuring 4,000 beds and provisions for medical care and vocational training, is anticipated to be finished by May 2026, according to the contract terms. The two new prisons will be in Elmore and Escambia counties, with preliminary site work already in progress using available funds.

“We have some simple dirt work underway with the projects, and we’ll be excited to move up with the ground-up construction as soon as possible,” said an official.

This approval follows a series of challenges encountered during the construction planning process, initiated by two different administrations. An earlier plan involved the state leasing prisons constructed and owned by private companies. The approach fell apart after underwriters withdrew under pressure from activists who opposed private prison involvement.

The U.S. Department of Justice has taken legal action against Alabama, alleging that the state’s prison system is plagued by inmate-on-inmate and guard-on-inmate violence. While the dilapidated facilities were identified as contributing to the unconstitutional conditions, the Justice Department emphasized that “new facilities alone will not resolve” the issue, citing broader problems such as cultural issues, management deficiencies, corruption, and violence.

In March, the Finance Authority increased the authorized spending for the first prison from approximately $623 million to $975 million.

According to state officials, the recent decision finalizes the project’s cost at just over $1 billion.

Rep. Rex Reynolds, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee, explained rising labor, concrete, and material costs have contributed to the budget escalation but stressed the necessity of moving forward with the project.

“This is about not just creating a safer environment for the inmates; this is about a safer environment for our corrections officers to work in. The design of these prisons will better manage the prison population. It’s more conducive for the vocational teaching of our inmates,” Reynolds emphasized.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, officials are seeking funds for a $1.69 billion facility with 4,500 beds to replace the deteriorating Fulton County Jail, which many say is beyond repair.

Private for-profit prisons incarcerated 96,370 American residents in 2021, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population.

Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased by 10%.

You can get additional statistics details, here.

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