Robert Bentley plans special session on prison construction

Robert Bentley
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley delivers the annual State of the State address in the Old House Chamber at the Historic Alabama State Capitol.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says he intends to convene lawmakers to a special legislative session to approve spending on prison construction for the state’s severely overcrowded corrections system, which is currently under federal investigation.

Bentley says the session will be held in the middle of next year’s regular session, forcing lawmakers to focus solely on the construction of new prisons. He claims holding the special session within the regular session will save taxpayers money as it will not require him to call an additional session.

The governor discussed plans for the upcoming legislative session Monday, but he did not release any further details.

Reports from the Alabama Department of Corrections show the state’s prisons are severely overcrowded and are in much need of reform.

During the 2016 regular session, Bentley strongly advocated for a $800 million prison construction plan developed by Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn that included three new men’s prisons with roughly 4,000 beds each as well as a new women’s prison to replace Julia Tutwiler Prison. An amended bill ultimately passed the Alabama Senate, but due to it’s hefty price-tag, it died in the Alabama House of Representatives just minutes before the 2016 session wrapped-up.

Bentley has promised to revive the proposal, calling it his “number one agenda item” in 2017.