The deadline for investors to come aboard Gov. Kay Ivey’s prison lease plan passed June 1 with no takers.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler, an opponent of the Ivey plan, says “the prison lease plan is dead, as it should be.”
Zeigler spoke Tuesday night in Northport, Alabama, and announced his own “commonsense” plan. His “Operation Fresh Start” will be less than 1/3 the cost of the Ivey plan and will require approval of the Alabama legislature. He says he has sent the plan to the 140 legislators.
Zeigler made this statement:
“I believe that investors saw the fatal flaws in the Ivey plan and would not touch it with a 10-foot pole. The three underwriters for the plan withdrew — Barclays, KeyBank, and Stifel. Now, the contractual deadline for investors has passed. The Ivey plan is dead – as it should be.
“The Ivey plan would have contracted with three consortiums of private businesses, two led by CoreCivic of Nashville. The contractors would have paid to build three super-prisons in Bibb, Elmore, and Escambia Counties of Alabama. Two of the contracts were signed by Ivey on Feb. 1 with the one in Bibb County pending.
“The Ivey plan would have forced Alabama taxpayers to pay rents starting about $94 million a year and going up to about $106 million. At the end of 30 years, the state would own equity in the prisons of zero. No equity. That was a bad business plan. The Ivey plan did not address the problems in the prison system – the safety of staff and other inmates, overcrowding, mental health, suicide, recidivism, and inadequate job training. The plan merely threw $3.6 billion of taxpayer money into rented buildings,” Zeigler said.
In Zeigler’s 10 point plan, the state would build only one new prison at this time using a legislatively-approved bond issue. He says bond costs are near record lows.
“There is not a giant one-step cure-all for the prison problems. It will take a series of smaller, commonsense steps. That is what my plan is,” Zeigler said.