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Stop Alabama Prison Bill

This petition had 143 supporters


 

As taxpayers and citizens of Alabama, we are deeply concerned about the Prison Transformation Initiative Act, which seeks to use close to $1 billion of state tax dollars to build four new megaprisons.

 

While we are encouraged to see our state legislators engaging with our broken prison system, this bill will “transform” nothing about the current system and its operations. It fails to address any of the issues that prompted the DOJ to launch an investigation into Alabama’s prisons, including inadequate medical and mental health care, guard-on-inmate abuse, and lack of rehabilitative programming. While the bill purports to address overcrowding, its failure to address rehabilitation, recidivism, or sentencing all but ensures that these new facilities themselves will quickly become overcrowded, as well.

 

We strongly urge you to vote against this bill.

 

Studies show that programming, education, job training, job opportunities, and counseling all lead to reduced recidivism. While the governor has gestured toward programming, he has presented no plan by which these four mega-prisons will be able to implement any more (or more effective) programming than is already in place in the state’s 14 institutions. Indeed, some of the state’s prison programming relies exclusively on volunteer-led programming. If these prisons shut down, volunteers may no longer be able to make the drive to these new facilities, especially if they are built in remote locations. Family and friends will have a tougher time visiting inmates. Support networks disappear. And these bigger facilities are designed to maximize space and minimize staff—hence the “cost savings”—which will only contribute to the violence that has plagued Alabama prisons in the last year.

 

In addition, the math behind this bill’s alleged cost savings does not add up. The Alabama Policy Institute has found that the actual cost of these megaprisons would be $1.5 billion or more and that the math underpinning the estimated savings is unrealistic.

 

Last year, this bill moved very quickly through the Senate and House last year without much scrutiny and without the input of professional organizations that study incarceration. The Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Poverty Law Center have spoken against this bill—publicly and loudly—and have been ignored.

 

Few, if any, changes have been made to the current version of this bill, by Governor Bentley’s own admission: http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2017/01/gov_robert_bentley_says_new_pr.html

 

Last year, Mississippi legislators spoke out against this bill, as well. They are working with programs and initiatives that reduce, rather than expand, their state’s prison population:

http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/04/mississippi_lawmakers_alabamas.html#incart_river_home

 

Last year, the bill also called for a suspension of Alabama’s bid law so that one company would design and build these prisons. Who benefits from this bill?

 

Please stand with your constituents and vote against this bill, which does not seriously address any of the major problems that plague Alabama prisons.

 



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