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Bentley unveils prison plan

During a visit to Greenville in January, Gov. Robert Bentley promised major changes to the state’s prison system. On Tuesday, he made good on that promise with the announcement of the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act.

During a visit to Greenville in January, Gov. Robert Bentley promised major changes to the state’s prison system. On Tuesday, he made good on that promise with the announcement of the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act.

During a recent visit to the Camellia City, Gov. Robert Bentley said the state’s prison system would see major changes before the end of his term.

On Tuesday, the Republican governor made good on his promise by announcing the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act. He said he expects the sponsors to file the bill this week.

The legislation will provide for the construction of four modern, efficient prison facilities, which Bentley has said will solve the prison system’s overcrowding problem and save the state money in the long run.

“We have made significant progress over the last year to improve our criminal justice system, and with the construction of four new and modern prisons, Alabama is poised to be a national leader in safe and effective incarceration of inmates,” Bentley said. “We cannot move our state forward without addressing the issues that have plagued the prison system for decades. We have a good plan to address the issues and with the partnership of the Alabama Legislature, we can solve the issues and make the Department of Corrections more efficient.”

The cost for building the four new prisons would be in the neighborhood of $800 million. According to Bentley, the money would be paid back with the savings from the Department of Corrections annual budget over the next 30 years.

Many of the state’s current prison facilities were built decades ago. Officials with the ADOC say the age and design of the facilities are causing inefficiencies in the operation of the prison system, including increasing costs of maintaining and repairing the facilities, increasing costs of transporting inmates from prison to medical care facilities, increasing correctional and support staff costs because of the geographic disparity of the system and the antiquated design of the prison facilities, and increasing medical costs due to inefficiencies in delivering medical services to inmates.

“This prison transformation legislation is yet another example of our commitment to continued efficiency in state government,” Rep. Steve Clouse, one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “It will not only save taxpayer dollars, but it also addresses important issues plaguing our prison system. This bold reform measure reinforces our commitment to addressing this matter once and for all.”

The three new men’s facilities will be designed to house at least 3,500 inmates.

Construction of the three regional men’s facilities and one female facility should begin in the fall of 2017 and is expected to be completed within three years.

“The Prison Transformation Initiative Act creates a new approach to Corrections in Alabama.  By using modern, state-of-the-art design, the new, more efficient, correctional facilities will improve the security and safety of staff and inmates and provide increased capability to offer rehabilitation and re-entry services aimed at reducing recidivism,” Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said.