By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed leases for two of the state’s new, privately owned “mega prison” complexes, including the one to be built in Atmore, but details on when actual construction of the new correctional facility will begin are few and far between.
The new prisons are the major component of Ivey’s Alabama Prison Program, which aims to decommission many of the state’s men’s prisons, most of which are in need of repair to the point of becoming safety hazards for correctional officers and other prison staff.
“The cornerstone of our ongoing efforts is the Alabama Prison Program,” the governor said during her State of the State Address. “I have signed a lease on the first two of these prisons — to be located in Escambia and Elmore counties — and I am pleased to say that we soon will complete our negotiations with the developers whose proposals qualified them to construct new prisons.”
She pointed out that the state must also decide what it will do with the land and buildings it owns just outside Atmore, and where other men’s prisons are located.
“As our Alabama Prison Program moves forward …we will simultaneously need to smartly and safely repurpose or decommission these outdated, aging prisons,” she said.
The majority of Holman Correctional Facility, which houses Alabama’s Death Row, was decommissioned last year. Plans are for the decommissioning of Fountain CI, also.
Tucson Roberts, retail and industrial recruiter for the City of Atmore, said during a recent interview that, depending upon the Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission’s recommendations, the 6,000 acres of state land on which the two facilities are located, as well as the buildings, could hold future benefit for Atmore and Escambia County.
“The committee is going to decide how to reuse that property, the 6,000 acres that is being abandoned,” Roberts said. “That could be an opportunity for us to gain some industrial sites we didn’t have before.”
Staff said he had been led to believe the state had other plans, especially for the buildings.
“All that is still in the planning stages, as far as I know,” the mayor said. “I thought they were going to level everything out there.”
The prison repurposing commission is tasked with conducting a thorough evaluation of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) existing infrastructure.
The 15-member committee, which includes State Sen. Greg Albritton of Atmore, will make recommendations as to which facilities should be retained and renovated as major correctional facilities, which could be renovated and repurposed for another use by the ADOC and which should be repurposed to serve a new function, whether by another public entity or the private sector.
“The commission will provide recommendations based on in-depth facility analysis, considering both the impact on the state and local community, as well as the financial ramifications to potentially repurpose or decommission some of our current prison infrastructures,” Ivey said.
The commission’s detailed report, including recommendations for the future of each existing male prison facility, will be delivered to the Governor, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Commissioner of Corrections on or before September 1, 2023, or 90 days after the Commissioner certifies that construction on the final prison is complete.
Implementation of the Commission’s recommendations will begin approximately six months later, unless the Commissioner of Corrections modifies them.