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Governor approves prison package

Gov. Kay Ivey signed off on a $1.3 billion plan to reform Alabama’s prison system and get the state out from under federal lawsuits.

Last week, Ivey called for a special session to address the prison issue, which has hounded the state for years. The legislature convened on Monday and passed a package in just five days, the minimum number of days required by law.

“This went exactly like I thought it would,” political analyst Steve Flowers said. “The governor really had her ducks in a row. Everybody was on board with the plan and a good many Democrats were on board. They had all agreed to this before hand. You really have to applaud Gov. Ivey, Rep. Steve Clouse and Sen. Greg Albritton for a job well done.”

The legislature passed a $1.3 billion funding package — the House on Wednesday and Senate on Friday — for two men’s and one women’s mega-prison as well as the purchase of a privately owned facility to be used for inmates that broke parole but committed no crime.

The two men’s prisons will be 4,000 bed facilities in Elmore and Escambia Counties. The prison for former prisoners who broke parole would be the Perry County Correctional Facility, a 700 bed prison. The package also included a women’s prison.

Funding for the prisons will come from a $785 million bond issue, $154 million from the state’s general fund budget and another $400 million from the state’s $2.2 billion American Rescue Plan funds.

Neighboring Bullock and Barbour Counties have three state prisons. Flowers said Rep. Billy Beasley fought to keep the three prisons open, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Beasley, a Democrat, voted against the bills.

Also passed by the legislature was a sentencing bill made retroactive back to 2013. Reducing the sentence for some non-violent crimes is expected to help with prison overcrowding.

The purchase of the Perry County Correctional Facility will help reduce overcrowding of county jails because inmates who broke parole but committed no crime are usually incarcerated in county jails.