Alabama authorizes bond sale to finance two new men’s prisons

A state committee Thursday approved the sale of $ 725 million in state bonds to help finance the construction of two new men’s prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties.

The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority approved the bond issuance in a meeting lasting roughly five minutes. The amount was slightly less than the $ 785 million in financing expected when the Legislature approved the $ 1.3 billion prison project last October.

“We have some simple dirt-work underway at the projects, and we’ll be excited to move forward with the ground-up construction as soon as possible,” State Finance Director Bill Poole said after the hearing.

The two prisons, expected to hold at least 4,000 inmates each, are expected to cost $ 1.3 billion in total. In addition to the bonds, the state is using $ 400 million in COVID relief money and $ 135 million in General Fund money to pay for the project. Elmore is expected to have medical, mental health and rehabilitation facilities.

A view of the outside from windows in the cafeteria at Draper Correction Facility in Elmore County in 2017. Opened in 1939, Draper Correction Facility was the oldest correctional facility in the state of Alabama until it was closed in 2018.

Alabama’s prisons are wracked by violence, understaffing and overcrowding, and face a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice alleging they violate inmates’ Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. If DOJ prevails, the prison system could go into receivership, meaning a federal court could order a number of remedies – from increased spending to release of inmates – to address the problem.

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