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State legislators in session on prisons construction, renovations

State legislators are working this week to get the new prisons bill on Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk by Friday at the close of business.

Alabama lawmakers are meeting in a special session this week to consider and vote on a bill that would construct two new 4,000-bed prisons in Elmore and Escambia Counties, and the renovation of others.

The plan includes an initial commitment of about $1.2 billion.

State Sen. Greg Albritton said Tuesday as the Atmore Rotary Club’s guest speaker that the state is going to have to borrow $785 million of the total, and spend some $153 million from the state General Fund. The other $400 million comes from federal dollars from a coronavirus recovery bill.

Albritton said most of the total is cash the state already has in the bank.

“We are able to appropriate $400 million of our money to use there for construction cost,” he said.

Additionally, the plan includes the construction of a new women’s prison to replace Tutwiler. Renovations to Donaldson Correctional Facility and Bessmer and Limestone Correctional Facilities are also in the plan.

Annual debt service on the bonds is estimated at $50 million a year for up to 30 years, which would put the total cost of the first phase of the plan at about $2 billion, according to an article on AL.com.

During a public hearing at the House on Tuesday, Mayor Jim Staff said the current prisons – Holman Correctional and Fountain Correctional – have been great for Atmore.

He said the new megaprisons will help not only Escambia County, but the surrounding counties.

Staff added that West Escambia Utilities, which serves the prisons now, is capable of serving the new megaprison.

“Our infrastructure is already there,” he said. “We need it. We need it now.”

At present, Albritton said there are some 900 inmates at Fountain, and around 300 at Holman.

Albritton said the new prison construction start will take place in early spring for Escambia County.

The new prison will be complete within 32 months in the county, he said, adding that the site will be near Holman.

Albritton said Fountain will be closed and may be refurbished.