Alabama Legislature’s special session will focus on prisons

Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Next week, Alabama lawmakers will head back to Montgomery for a special session on the state’s troubled prison system.

With a federal lawsuit over prison conditions, aging facilities and overcrowding, lawmakers hope the special session will begin the process of reshaping the state’s prison system.

“We’re going to look at some bonded resource, some federal resource that is now available to us that wasn’t really available to us several months ago.  And overages that are available in the general fund budget,” said Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, president pro-tem of the Alabama Senate.

The overall price tag for prisons would clock in at around $2 billion spent over several phases.

While there appears to be agreement over updating prisons, democrats say reform should go beyond brick and mortar.

“Being able to properly identify who needs to be in those facilities and who doesn’t,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Birmingham, chair of the Alabama Democratic Party. “But also, you need to engage in some reform of the pardons and parole system and Department of Corrections. I don’t think I’ve been shy in this, but the Department of Corrections needs a new commissioner.”

But that’s a position most Republicans don’t agree with.

“Jeff Dunn has done a good job and because of all the issues knows more about the problems than anybody else in Alabama. You may not agree with all the decision he’s had to be make but the bottom line is he’s the guy moving things forward at the moment,” Reed said.

The special will begin Monday, Sept. 27.

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