MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — As Alabama looks to take on changes in its prison system, Gov. Kay Ivey is firing back at one New York congressman who is asking the government to not allow states to use COVID-19 stimulus money to build new prisons.

On Monday, US Congressman Jerry Nadler sent a letter urging the US Treasury Department to not allow states like Alabama to use money allocated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for prisons. The letter came as the Alabama Legislature has started a special session to consider a prison construction plan covering $1.3 billion, covering the construction of three mega prisons, as well as renovating and closing others.

Specifically, the plan would use $400 million of ARP funds to help pay for the construction. Alabama has allocated over $2 billion from the ARP for different projects.

“The answer to the problem of prison overcrowding and aging facilities is not the construction of more prisons, rather it is to invest directly in better care for individuals currently incarcerated and to take meaningful steps to decarcerate whenever possible,” Nadler wrote in his letter. “The ARP is a historic effort to provide urgent assistance in a time of great suffering.  It should not be used to worsen our national problem of over-incarceration.” 

On Tuesday, Ivey released the following statement in response to Nadler’s letter.

“The Democrat-controlled federal government has never had an issue with throwing trillions of dollars toward their ideological pet projects. Their political agenda is glaringly obvious to send a letter to the U.S. Treasury on the first day of our special session asking the federal government to ignore the laws they themselves wrote and to overstep our Alabama-driven plan. I would suggest to the New York Congressman, and for that matter the federal government, that they worry more about avoiding the pending government shutdown and running the country. The fact is, the American Rescue Plan Act allows these funds to be used for lost revenue and sending a letter in the last hour will not change the way the law is written. These prisons need to be built, and we have crafted a fiscally conservative plan that will cost Alabamians the least amount of money to get to the solution required. While our prison infrastructure is broken, our ability to govern is not.  Same can’t be said for D.C.”

Ivey has maintained that it was in Alabama’s best interest to get its prisons under control so that they would not fall under federal oversight to get those changes done.

“They are getting closer and closer to wanting to intervene and that’s something we cannot let happen,” Ivey said last week at the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery. “If they take over, they’ll turn prisoners out, no questions asked.”

The special session started Monday.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.