Problems with the Governors $800MM plan:

·        It does not follow the Competitive Bid Law; authorizes No Bid Contracts.

O The competitive bid law is in place to protect taxpayers’ dollars and protect against coercion and collusion.  Competitively bidding all public works projects is the law in Alabama and it provides the best price with the job completed on time and brings transparency in the use of tax payers dollars. It’s the taxpayers’ method of comparative shoppingAny construction on prisons must be bid competitively  using sealed bids opened publicly.

·         The funding for this prison project is extremely concerning.

O The $800 Million Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act would ultimately cost at least $1.5 billion and would create a bond debt that Alabamians will be paying on for 30 years and in perpetuity if the Governor sees fit.  

O The prison bill calls for Gov. Robert Bentley [and future Governors] and two of his appointed cabinet members to have full authority—by statute—to not only borrow $800 million for his ambitious prison plans but to keep it from public review, thus giving the Governor carte blanche with no real oversight.  The use of a lease revenue bond will stop the public from voicing its opinion on borrowing the money while keeping the almost one billion dollars borrowed off the books and in the hands of a very small group.

·         It moves prisons out of the communities that have invested in them and rely on them for employment.

o The investments in infrastructure made by communities with prisons to sustain those prisons were leveraged based on the service provided to the prison system.  If they lose these prisons the debt service will still have to be paid by citizens through increased utility rates or local taxes.  These are the same citizens who will be losing their jobs. 

O The loss of direct and indirect jobs would create a negative economic impact on communities that is so significant that it would take many years to recover.

·         The enormous cost that will not solve the prison-overcrowding problem or health care problems.

O Sentencing reform passed in 2013 has already started reducing the inmate population from 27,000 before the reforms to 23,000 today. The Bentley plan would only accommodate a total of 16,000 inmates, and in five years the system will still be at 125% capacity. Why not just build one additional prison to specifically address the overcrowding needs?

O There are 4 prisons that were built after the 1990’s: Bullock, Ventress, Easterling, Bibb.  Bibb was built in 1998.  It is difficult to argue that these structures are in need of replacement.

O Why have we not already purchased the private Perry County facility which would hold 800 inmates and for which bond money was legislated in 2010 under Gov. Riley.  Almost 7 years later, nothing has been done to buy it and lower occupancy elsewhere.  This Perry County facility would hold 800 inmates.

O The Governor says the debt will be paid through savings by reducing the hours and numbers of correctional officers. However, the prisons are already severely short on correctional officers.    

O The immediate need is for increased expenditures on medical care and mental health care, not overcrowding.  This bill does not address these medical needs, yet this is the issue about which the courts have expressed concern.

 

Recommendations:

·         Place inmates in City and County jails to relieve immediate overcrowding.

·         Buy the Perry County Facility.

·         Make the necessary renovations to existing facilities and bid the work out.  Once the renovations are competitively bid, the price will probably be less than current projections.

·         If necessary, build one new facility following the competitive bid law.  It is the law.