By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
The proposed plan to build new prisons in Alabama would also allow the purchase of the empty Perry County private jail to hold parole offenders who are crowding some of the state’s county jails.
“(Perry County Correctional Facility) has always been the Rubik’s Cube of the prison problem that no one has ever really been able to understand,” the director of the Pardons and Parole Office told Alabama Daily News. Alabama.
Built in the 2000s, Ward said it was a good 730-bed facility, but its remote location and distance to medical care posed a challenge for operations. At one point, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement used the space.
“But it was never used to full capacity,” Ward said.
Ward and other state officials will meet this week with GEO Group, the private prison company that owns the site, about the possible purchase.
Ward was at Alabama House in 2010 when the legislature considered buying the property for $ 60 million. Ward said he expects the sale price to be “considerably lower” now. The bill, which lawmakers will consider in a special session starting next week, allows the state to buy or lease it, but Ward has said he prefers the state to own it. and manages it.
He estimates that it would initially cost between $ 1.2 million and $ 2.5 million per year to staff the site with about 75 to 100 inmates. He said it would take a few years to reach around 700 inmates and include more education and training opportunities. The site could be ready for detainees in nine to ten months, he said.
Finding a use for the site has been a priority for Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.
He said the pardons and parole plan for the site could reduce recidivism rates for the state by getting treatment and skills for parolees and keeping them out of jails where they become more criminalized.
Ward’s proposal revolves around “dips and dunks,” former ADOC inmates who have been paroled but suffered a technical violation, such as failing a drug test or missing an appointment. you with their parole officer.
Under a 2015 state law designed to reduce prison overcrowding, “dips” were required to spend two or three days in a local jail. After a few dives, they became “dunks” and had to serve 45 days in an ADOC prison. But county officials have complained that this is not how it works and that inmates end up staying in local jails, which takes up space and resources.
Ward’s proposal would put these “dunks” in Perry County instead of overcrowded county jails.
“And while they’re there, we’re giving them mental health and addiction treatment, and they have to successfully complete it and if they do, they go back on parole,” Ward said. “If they don’t, then they go to jail.”
He also envisions mental health treatment and life skills training to help inmates stay out of prison.
In the spring, lawmakers approved a law to place these dunks in a few prisons that have volunteered to house them for a fee as of January 1, 2022. The bill requires a prison application and a selection process involving the ‘ADOC, the Alabama Sheriffs Association and the Association of County. Alabama Commissions. Association executive director Sonny Brasfield said last week that the application process had not started.
“We have been supportive of using the Perry County facility and have been for years,” Brasfield said. “And using it for people who would otherwise be in county jails is obviously something we’re going to be supporting.”
As of July, there were 3,032 state inmates in county jails, of which over 1,000 were awaiting transfer to ADOC jails.
The ACCA recently approved a resolution asking for $ 10 million in backpayment because inmates were being held in jail when ADOC reduced the number of prisoners due to COVID. LINK https://www.aldailynews.com/counties-ask-for-10m-reimbursement-from-state-for-county-jail-strains/
Eventually, Ward said he would like to partner with the Alabama Community College System to provide job training and manpower and what he said will be a minimum security facility.
“If they get treatment, I hope they won’t go back to prison,” he said. “I think that’s the main mission of our agency – what do we do to make sure someone doesn’t commit another crime or go back to jail. I think that’s the kind of institution that can do it.
The Perry County acquisition is part of the larger bill to allow the construction of two male jails and one female jail. A third facility for men could be added as part of a third phase within a few years. The bill allows the state to borrow up to $ 785 million. Meanwhile, the use of around $ 400 million in federal COVID relief funds could help move the dirt by early next year.
Senator Greg Albritton, R-Range, chairman of the Senate General Fund budget, said last week that legislative leaders are still doing their homework on the bill, including trying to build support for Democrats.
Albritton said there were already several elements in the bill that Democrats had been pushing for, including the new women’s prison and the closure of the existing Julia Tutwiler prison.
The bill also adds four seats to the bond-issuing Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority, including one person appointed by minority leaders in the House and Senate.
The wording of the bill indicates that the intention of the legislature is that “the authority shall encourage the participation of minority businesses in the construction of penal institutions” and develop a plan to do so.
Singleton said late last week that his caucus did not yet have a position on the bill, but members were considering it. He said he has heard from a few who want more rehabilitation and education programs in prisons.
“We have to make sure that once they (are released) they can be ready for work, or have the potential to be ready for work, and not just with $ 10 and a bus ticket.”
Singleton said he personally agreed with the concepts of the bill.
“I understand the need to build prisons,” he said. “I understand that we have men and women living in horrific, inhumane and overcrowded conditions in the state of Alabama. And we have to do something better than what we’re doing, the culture inside the prison system. We have murders and sexual assaults going on, as the federal government has pointed out.