Alabama Prisons

In this Oct. 22, 2019, photo, a sign that reads, "HELP," is posted in the window of an inmate cell during a tour along with state officials at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, against Alabama over conditions in the state prisons, saying the state is failing to protect male inmates from inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive force at the hands of prison staff.

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday that she is looking at other options for prison construction after a plan to lease prisons fell apart because of financing troubles.

The governor said she plans to meet with legislators to discuss alternative options to fund the construction and maintenance of new prison facilities after the leases didn't pan out. Ivey made the statement a day after the June 1 deadline passed for companies to have financing in place for the prison leases.

"It is unfortunate that the comprehensive efforts underway to resolve this issue have proven so challenging and time-consuming; however, my commitment to improving prison conditions is unwavering," Ivey said in a statement.

In February, Ivey agreed to lease two prisons from separate entities of CoreCivic, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. The prisons would be owned by the private companies but staffed and run by the state. However, the lease plan hit setbacks with the withdrawal of finance companies that faced pressure from activists to not be involved with private prison firms.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Alabama over poor conditions, including excessive violence, in state prisons for men. In a recent filing, the Justice Department said Alabama prisons are no safer than they were in 2019 when federal officials first warned the state of unconstitutional conditions.

The lease plan, which would cost an estimated $3 billion over 30 years, has drawn concerns from lawmakers, and some public officials and advocates sued to stop the plan. Their lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month.

Rep. Steve Clouse, the chairman of the House General Fund budget committee, said one of the main concerns among lawmakers is that under the plan's provisions, the state would stop owning the buildings after 30 years.

Clouse said the administration has asked for a meeting to talk about options and a possible special session. Clouse said options being discussed include a bond issue to finance the construction and using a portion of the state's COVID-19 relief dollars.

The governor said she remains committed to finding a way to build new prisons.

"Anyone who is serious about these issues understands that replacing our failing prison infrastructure with safer, more secure facilities that accommodate the rehabilitation of incarcerated people is essential," Ivey said. "It is not a question of if this will happen, but how."

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