Calif. governor calls out Ala. for using COVID funds to build prisons

Alabama is building two “supersize” prisons using $400 million from the American Rescue Plan - 20% of what it was given by the federal government


By Savannah Tryens-Fernandes
al.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Gov. Gavin Newsom called out Alabama’s plans to build prisons with COVID relief money on Monday.

“Lotta talk about education and choice from these GOP governors,” he posted in a tweet.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom pictured during a Capitol news conference in 2019. On Monday, Newsom took aim at Alabama’s plans to build prisons with COVID relief money. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom pictured during a Capitol news conference in 2019. On Monday, Newsom took aim at Alabama’s plans to build prisons with COVID relief money. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“Let’s look at the choices they’re making. When states received new federal money, CA gave 3.5 million kids college savings accounts. Alabama spent it on two super-sized prisons. Actions speak louder than words.”

Alabama is building two “supersize” prisons using $400 million from the American Rescue Plan - 20% of what it was given by the federal government - as well as $135 million in state funds and $725 million from bond sales.

The prisons, which are set to be located in Elmore and Escambia counties, are meant to help with overcrowding. As recently as 2019, when the plan for the prisons was first announced, Alabama had the most overcrowded prisons in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“Alabama truly does have a major problem with our overcrowding of our prisons and it’s a challenge that we Alabamians must solve, not the federal courts,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in 2019 when she announced plans for the new complexes.

The plan has been controversial, with critics saying new prisons don’t address the problems plaguing the system in the state, and could have been used to provide a variety of other supports.

“These funds were meant to support struggling hospitals, provide a lifeline to small businesses, create access to education for rural communities and much more,” said Southern Poverty Law Center Policy Associate Katie Glenn in a press release.

“They were not intended to finance Alabama’s latest prison construction boondoggle…The United States Department of Justice in its own investigation of the Alabama Department of Corrections made clear that building new facilities won’t solve our issues; only decarceration can do that.”

The prisons are expected to open in 2025. A third prison in Bibb County is also being planned.

Ivey’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Newsom’s statement.

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