fbpx

Alabama Lawmakers Consider Building New Prisons With Pandemic Relief Funds

President Joe Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package known as the American Rescue Plan was signed in March, providing a stream of funds to states and cities to recover from the pandemic. Now, the state of Alabama is weighing the use of $400 million in pandemic relief funds to build new prisons, a proposal that state Republican leaders say would save state taxpayer money but that critics argue is not the intended use of the federal aid.

Alabama state lawmakers are scheduled to begin a special session on Monday focused on a $1.3 billion prison construction plan to build at least three new prisons and renovate others. The projects would be done in phases and funded with a $785 million bond issue, $150 million in general fund dollars, and $400 million from the state’s $2.2 billion share of American Rescue Plan funds. Gov. Kay Ivey and Republican legislative leaders have defended the use of the virus funds, saying it will enable the state to essentially “pay cash” for part of the construction and avoid using state dollars as well as paying interest on a loan. “We don’t have to borrow quite as much money and pay all that money back,” Ivey told reporters this week of why the virus funds should be used for prison construction.

Gov Kay Ivey. Screenshot: CBS 42

The Alabama prison construction proposal calls for at least three new prisons — at least a 4,000-bed prison in Elmore County with enhanced space for medical and mental health care needs; another at least 4,000-bed prison in Escambia County; and a women’s prison — as well as renovations to existing facilities.

The U.S. Department of Treasury does not preapprove any specific uses of the funds and has not issued a final rule on usage. Treasury officials say the department is monitoring all proposed expenditures and expects any state or local government that uses state and local funds in violation of the eligible uses to repay the misused funds to the federal government.



Follow Us On: Facebook and Twitter