Updated at 12:30 to state that the agreements had now been signed by Ivey; Updated at 12:42 to include the new information from Alabama Daily News about the estimated cost for the prisons; Updated at 12:45 to state that the Governor’s office had released official copies of the leasing agreements.
Governor Kay Ivey signed a 30-year lease agreement today to lease two new men prisons from CoreCivic. The prisons in question will be located in Escambia and Elmore counties.
Ivey announced in September of 2020 the locations of three new men’s prisons that were meant to help address the issues that had been brought to light by a recent report by the Department of Justice.
Instead of being owned by the state, these new prisons were proposed to be built and owned by private groups and then leased and run by the state.
The DOJ declared in July of 2020 that Alabama men’s prisons were unconstitutional after alleging the same in April of 2019. The DOJ had been working with the state and Alabama Department of Corrections to address the issues, but in December they filed a lawsuit against both Alabama and the ADOC.
Ivey has said that the DOJ’s decision is “disappointing” and stated that “the state has actively been negotiating in good faith with the Department of Justice following the release of its findings letters.”
The press release on the DOJ’s website says that “for over 20 months the department has engaged in negotiations with the state without achieving a settlement that would correct the deficiencies identified by the department’s investigation.”
The construction of these prisons has been met with a large amount of resistance and skepticism from both residents and legislators.
Residents of Brierfield formed a Facebook group called Block the Brierfield Prison and have advocated for the prison not to be built in their region citing environmental concerns and voicing complaints over the lack of communication from the state to the locals.
In response to the announcement from the governor’s office on Friday, the official spokesperson for Block the Brierfield prison, Jackson McNeely, told The Alabamian that “It’s extremely disappointing that the Governor has decided to go against the will of the citizens and strap them with this outrageous debt. The fact that she plans to sign it the day before the legislature goes back in session is very telling.”
Block the Brierfield Prison was one of the 43 groups so far to have signed a letter sent to all the members of the state legislature on Friday protesting the imminent signing of the plan.
The letter closed with an appeal to the legislators.
“Alabama cannot move forward with this plan. We implore you: do everything in your power to delay these contracts from being signed. You are the last line of defense against this anti-democratic process and appalling executive overreach.”
View the full letter here.
The letter was a modified version of the one sent out to all the legislators on Friday morning by another member of the coalition, Alabama Students Against Prisons.
View the full letter here.
ASAP represents a coalition of “275 Alabama students from 28 colleges, universities, and law schools.”
In their letter, ASAP drew attention to the longevity of the contract that Ivey would be signing and that the burden of paying it would fall largely to the younger generation.
“If Alabama moves forward with this prison construction plan, our generation will be paying for it until we retire—and we won’t even own anything in the end.”
ASAP was also one of the groups calling for Regions Bank to cease supporting CoreCivic, and protested outside of their main office in downtown Birmingham in December. According to AP Regions bank released a statement Saturday that they would be ending their contractual relationship with CoreCivic in 2023.
Regions Spokesman Jeremy King stated “We are not extending additional credit services to CoreCivic, and we are specifically not providing CoreCivic with financing for the construction of the prisons to be built in Alabama. To be clear, Regions Bank is 100% committed to creating more inclusive prosperity and advancing racial equity.”
While Ivey is able to sign the lease for the prisons, the budget that ADOC would use to pay for it still needs to approved by the state legislature. For many of the legislators, the amount of secrecy surrounding the negotiations has been problematic.
According to the Associated Press, a group of Alabama Lawmakers has asked Ivey’s administration to release more information, including the profit margins for the companies, before Ivey signs the lease.
“I think this committee deserves to know what the return on cost really is for the developers,” said Republican Rep. Rich Wingo of Tuscaloosa.
Currently, the estimated cost for the prison has not been released, but the governor’s office has stated that there will be an affordability cutoff of $88 million per year. Since the leases are set to be for 30 years, this would cost the state a total of 2.6 billion.
This number is contested by a recent report by Alabama Daily News, which states that the administration shared new numbers with lawmakers on a Friday zoom call, which estimate the cost of the prison starting at $94 million. The report puts the actual total cost at over $3 billion with these new numbers.
At this time, there is no current update on the third prison, which would be leased from Alabama Prison Transformation Partners and constructed in the Brierfield area.
This is an ongoing story that The Alabamian will continue to report on. Check this story for updates. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.