Proposed mega-prison in Bibb County could affect law enforcement

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BRIERFIELD, Ala. (WIAT) — The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections and the state of Alabama alleging dangerous and unconditional living situations.

This comes as Gov. Kay Ivey and the ADOC are planning to build new mega prisons.

According to the state, these new prisons would be built and owned by private companies, while ADOC operates the facility.

Bibb, Elmore and Escambia counties were selected to be home to these new prisons to address overcrowding issues state-wide. However, many residents in Bibb County don’t want the prison.

Jackson McNeely, who helped start the “Block the Prison” Group, says the facility would use close to 500,000 gallons per day and the county cannot meet the water needs.

“It is going to drain our resources as far as our drinking water and our daily water needs, but it’s also going to impact environmentally protected areas,” McNeely said.

But another resource the facility could impact is law enforcement and their ability to respond in emergency situations.

“I’m just worried about the manpower we would have to try to cover the influx of an additional 3,000 people in that rural area,” Bibb County Sheriff Jody Wade said.

Sheriff Wade was one of the first people to voice his opposition to the proposed mega prison.

“My main concern is the safety of the citizens of Bibb County,” Wade said.

Wade says response times for his officers and other municipalities in the county would be drastically impacted if they had to help emergency situations at the facility, given the alleged location is out of the way for most agencies.

“And the location of the current facility, currently located in Bibb County which is in Brent is within the call area of Brent Police Department. So you’ve got a municipality there where it’s located. Which is right next to another municipality in Centerville. So, there’s immediate backup. It’s a lot closer to the hospital and the ambulance services and more to the volunteer fire departments concentrated in this area,” Wade said.

Wade also says there aren’t enough officers in the county to help the prison. Currently, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office has 10 full-time officers. Other cities like Centerville have five full-time officers. Brent has six, Woodstock has five, and West Blocton has only two full-timers.

Sheriff Wade understands there are things that need to change in the prison system and some facilities do need upgrades.

“I’m not opposed to building more prisons, larger prisons. I just wished they build them in an area more suitable for what they need,” Wade said.

CBS 42 asked newly elected Representative of District 49, Russel Bedsole, his thoughts on the prison plans for the area since he has experience as a commanding officer for the Shelby County Jail.

“But I can tell you from being involved in a very modern well run facility myself, that the design means a lot. It’s a motivating factor to be able to keep, to be able to recruit and retain officers. And it’s also going to be one where the inmates are going to be extremely safe and be treated humanely,” Bedsole said.

Bedsole says he supports the Gov. Ivey and ADOC for addressing the issue.

“I don’t believe this is the right plan for my district and I don’t believe this is the right plan for the citizens of Alabama,” Bedsole said.

Though the future of the prison is unclear, many in opposition to the prison wish Gov. Ivey and her office were more transparent.

“I would have liked to be a part of any kind of negotiation process that went on because we are the ones going to be tasked with any kind of emergency services,” Wade said.

Because they believe the prison would be better elsewhere.

“And it’s frustrating because the state should protect her people and her resources. Not completely ignore them,” McNeely said.

CBS 42 asked the state if they were open to a new location for the prison and their thoughts on the protests. Their response: “We welcome the thoughts of the people of Alabama on this and any other issue.”


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