Robert Bentley prison construction bill heads to committee vote

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​Alabama lawmakers are expected to vote as early as ​Wednesday on legislation ​being pushed by Gov. Robert Bentley. The bill, propose​s​ an $800 million bond issue to build four “super-prisons” and ​would ​close 14 existing prisons.

The ​Alabama ​Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to debate the proposal Wednesday ​after a public hearing.

​In his annual State of the State address in February, Bentley said the prison plan is vital​ ​because of the federal mandate to fix overcrowding and substandard conditions.​

​”​Nearly all DOC facilities are double sometimes triple capacity, infrastructure is collapsing and the tensions created among inmates and officers by the deteriorating facilities and overcrowded conditions have even become deadly,” Bentley said in the address.​ ​“Alabama is about to embark on a complete transformation of the state’s prison system.​”

He continued, “​The Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative will transform Alabama’s prison system into a national model for the 21st century. The initiative will consolidate 14 of 16 maximum custody level prisons into four large-scale, state-of-the-art regional correctional facilities — three men’s facilities and one women’s facility to permanently replace Tutwiler Prison for Women.”

As of September, Alabama prisons were at 175 percent of their intended occupancy — housing  roughly 23,000 prisoners in facilities designed for 13,000.

In October, the U.S. Justice Department opened a statewide investigation into violence, rape, overcrowding, among other problems and conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men.

Similar versions of the proposed plan passed both the House and Senate last year, but failed to win final approval.

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