Ala. lawmakers prepare to work on prison plan in special session

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The countdown to the special session has begun, which is set to start on Sept. 27. The special session called by Gov. Kay Ivey last week is for lawmakers to pass a bill that will fix the prison problems in the state.

“Building prisons in and of itself is not enough, however, it is the foundation of what needs to be done,” said Sen. Clyde Chambliss. “Because those that work there, they have to feel secure, they have to feel that their safety is paramount and that they’re able to return home to their family at night.”

While lawmakers have a drafted plan in place, there are still more issues to be discussed. One of those is prison reform.

“We got to start having drug courts, mental health courts, just all these other things that will give a person a hand up instead of being locked up,” Sen. Bobby Singleton said.

A possible plan on the table is using the Perry County Correctional facility as a place to send people who have technical violations of their paroles.

“(They) would come to perhaps this Perry County or another pardon and parole-operated facility to serve out a treatment-based program as opposed to just sitting in jail for 45 days,” said Cam Ward, director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.

According to Ward, Alabama’s recidivism rate is around 30%, which is average compared to other states. By using this facility and addressing prison reform, Ward and Singleton say it could save the state money and lower the number of re-offenders.

“I think if we can do a good job and better job of doing that, then we can be a huge contributor to solving part of our state’s criminal justice problems,” Ward said.

The plan to purchase the facility and implement a rehabilitation program could cost millions, but Ward says it’s worth it.

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