Alabama Wants to Use $400 Million in COVID Relief Money to Build More Prisons

Greater than a 12 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama’s dying price remains to be operating rampant. At one level prior to now month, the state averaged as many as 100 deaths per day within the span of a single week. It additionally has one of many lowest vaccination rates within the nation; roughly 42% of Alabamans are totally vaccinated. As a part of the American Rescue Plan, signed into legislation by Joe Biden in March, the state of Alabama will receive some $2.2 billion in federal funding geared toward assuaging the disaster in its borders; in line with The Washington Put up, states have broad discretion by way of how they wish to spend that cash. And in Alabama—which, once more, remains to be struggling to get a deal with on COVID-19—lawmakers have chosen to commit a couple of quarter of it to constructing new prisons.

Sure, that’s appropriate: Alabama state officers have proposed spending as much as $400 million in federal pandemic reduction funds to construct at the very least three new prisons holding some 4,000 inmates. “I’m happy and intensely hopeful that we’re lastly positioned to deal with our state’s jail infrastructure challenges,” GOP governor Kay Ivey mentioned in a press release. “Whereas this challenge was a few years within the making, we stand united to supply an Alabama answer to this Alabama downside.” Ivey justified using reduction funds on the jail mission—the projected value of which is $1.3 billion—by saying that the state received’t “need to borrow fairly as a lot cash and pay all that cash again.”

Alabama lawmakers appear to have jumped on the bandwagon together with her. Republican state senator Greg Albritton, who chairs the Senate’s finances committee, will probably sponsor the invoice to reallocate the funds and has said that doing so won’t run afoul of the legislation. What’s extra, it seems that lots of his colleagues agree. Alabama Home Speaker Mac McCutcheon said earlier this month that lawmakers have proven “a really constructive” response to the proposition. “We’re going to make the most of federal {dollars} that’s going to be made accessible to us,” he mentioned.

Naturally, the plan has confronted heavy criticism from advocacy teams. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle Motion Fund condemned the proposal in a letter signed by 40 organizations. “Constructing prisons was not the supposed use of those funds and can go away our communities with out the lifeline the American Rescue Plan was presupposed to be,” they wrote. Shay Farley of the SPLC Motion Fund highlighted the truth that Alabama’s small companies and well being care services are nonetheless going through pressing funding wants as a result of pandemic. “Which means $400 million much less for helping small companies, funding over-burdened rural well being care services, offering faculties with much-needed private protecting gear, and far more,” Farley mentioned, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “We urge the Legislature and the governor to rethink this plan and redirect these funds to better-suited ventures.”

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