BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama prison system has been one of the state’s biggest issues for years.
Lawmakers during the recent Special Session approved several prison bills, including the construction of two new facilities that will cost more than one billion dollars; at least $400 million will come from the American Rescue Plan.
Another bill that passed during the sessions, House Bill 2. Some lawmakers say this will help people who are getting out of prison ahead of their release transition into the community.
Some members of the Republican party have said these bills have been needed to help fix prison issues for some time, but both Democrats and the ACLU believe most of the bills discussed didn’t address the real issues with prisons.
“But there was none of the complimentary efforts to make sure that we are not in the same exact position ten years down the road,” Representative Neil Rafferty said.
“And unfortunately, this is a setback,” Dillon Nettles with the ACLU said.
“Today was a monumental decision for our state,” Representative Russell Bedsole said.
Rep. Bedsole believes what passed on Wednesday is a start in the right direction.
“I’m really excited about the future and what this will mean to lives of not only the people we incarcerate, but also the men and women that have served proudly as correction officers,” Bedsole said.
“It’s not new facilities, but by changing some policies, by ensuring that our sentencing laws are fair and balanced like so much of the rest of the country,” Nettles said.
Nettles is the Policy and Advocacy Director for the ACLU in Alabama. He says lawmakers didn’t truly address the concerns in the Department of Justice report from 2019, where overcrowding and violence in prisons were some major concerns.
“By ensuring that we are lowering the people that we are admitting and actually getting those people into real treatment,” Nettles said.
But after the special session, both sides agree the conversation about the Alabama prison system will continue.
“It’s not going to solve the problems with just one package of bills we passed today, but this is a step in the right direction,” Bedsole said.
“Right now, Alabamians are desperate to see the state change, evolve and get better,” Nettle said.