Local prison? Everybody wants one

Published 1:19 am Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Alabama Legislature has not yet agreed to build new prisons, but competition for those structures is already fierce, Rep. Mike Jones said.

He was asked in the town hall meeting he hosted in Florala with Sen. Jimmy Holley last night if it would be possible for one of the proposed new prisons to be located in Covington County, so that local residents could benefit from the jobs.

“There’s not a county in the state not offering land for one of the regional facilities,” Jones said.

A measure that would have closed many of the state’s aging prisons and built fewer, but larger regional prisons, failed in the final minutes of the 2016 legislative session. Jones, who managed the legislation in the House, said the planned called for capitalizing on design improvements that would allow prisons to operate with fewer employees, saving about $25 million per year.

The proposed legislation did not specify where the facilities would have been located, but Jones said the prison commissioner had researched the addresses of every current Department of Corrections employee and intended for them to still be able to drive to their jobs.

Alabama’s current prisons are filled far beyond design capacity, and many do not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The state faces potential federal government takeovers of the facilities if it does not address the problems.