Alabama Prison-Building Plan Cuts the Line to Start Construction Early

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Some of the planning that will go into building two 4,000-bed state prisons in Alabama was done before legislators passed bills approving the projects during a recent special session, allowing construction to start in early 2022 on the two mega-prisons, which will cost an estimated $1.3 billion and take about three years to complete, reports Under the new legislation, the state will build a 4,000-bed specialized care prison in Elmore County with space for medical and mental health services and a 4,000-bed prison in Escambia County. They will be the first prisons Alabama has built since the mid-1990s.

The prison construction bill lawmakers passed carves out an exception to the state’s standard competitive bid process on public works projects for the two new prisons and allows direct negotiations with the contractors. Allowing direct negotiations with the contractors, rather than starting from scratch with competitive bids, would save a total of about $75 million and get the prisons built sooner. The legislation also includes language encouraging the participation of minority-owned businesses in prison construction. It requires the state to provide training programs to help minority-owned businesses compete for the work. The construction is part one of several phases to overhaul the state’s prison system and will be followed by the closure of four other prisons and an evaluation to determine what other prisons should be closed or renovated.

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