Leaders Think Prison Construction Bill Can Pass

Lawmakers on Tuesday will hold a public hearing on the latest plan to build new prisons in Alabama.

The House Judiciary Committee will consider a bill to allow the state to build three men's prisons and a replacement for Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

It's a revised version of a bill the Senate passed in March to allow three men's prisons and renovations to Tutwiler and some other prisons. Most existing men's prisons would close.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, sponsor of the bill, said he's optimistic an agreement can be reached before the end of the legislative session.

"The fact that we're not that far apart is encouraging," Ward said.

Lawmakers have six meeting days remaining and must finish the session by May 22.

As of February, Alabama's prisons held 22,688 inmates, 170 percent of the capacity they were designed for.

The Department of Corrections says the number of violent incidents has increased over the last few years while the number of corrections officers has dropped.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, are optimistic the bill can pass.

"By and large, it's fairly close to what left this chamber and I feel good about that," Marsh said last Thursday.

McCutcheon said House leaders have met with senators, the Department of Corrections and Gov. Kay Ivey in recent days.

"Based upon our work this week and based upon the fact that we have a Senate bill, I think we're very close," McCutcheon said last Thursday. "I'm optimistic today that we will be able to get something passed this session.

Gov. Kay Ivey told the Associated Press in a recent interview that prisons were a priority.

"We do need to get some prisons built sooner rather than later," Ivey said.


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