Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley last night used his State of the State address to call for construction of new prisons to replace aging state facilities that have come under scrutiny for overcrowding, violence and abuse, reports the Associated Press. Bentley proposed a bond issue to build four new large prisons to replace existing prisons, including the state’s embattled Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women where federal officials last year alleged prisoners were subjected to pervasive abuse and harassment. “By building a brand new female prison facility, the State of Alabama will permanently slam the door shut on Tutwiler Prison for Women,” Bentley said.
Bentley said the inefficient, overcrowded prisons are unsafe for the officers who work there and the state’s communities. The governor said the construction project would not cost the state additional dollars, because it can be paid for with maintenance savings in the prison budget. State prisons house about 24,000 inmates in facilities originally designed to hold 13,000, ranking the state top in the nation in prison crowding. Seven inmates were killed inside Alabama prisons in 2015, say the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson, director of the initiative, said problems of abuse, poor management, understaffing and excessive sentencing, “doesn’t get any better when it takes place in a new prison instead of an old one.”