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Back to the drawing board

Back to the drawing board


It’s tough to fault Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for taking the bull by the horns with regard to the terrible shape of the state’s corrections system. The Alabama Legislature has been aware of the challenges of staffing, overcrowding and facilities for years, and each year it has failed to address the growing problems.

Alabama’s prison conditions captured the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, and after repeated warnings, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the state over the matter.

Ivey, to her credit, decided to act, signing off on a $3 billion lease agreement without running the plan through the legislative process, where it would likely die of inaction.

Now there’s a lawsuit aiming to stop the lease, spearheaded by the state’s own auditor, Jim Zeigler.

The suit contends that the agreement is illegal since Ivey didn’t have legislative approval. Further, plaintiffs — Zeigler; a Democratic lawmaker; a property owner whose home is near the proposed site of one of the new prisons; and an inmate rights activist — contend that the agreement is ill-conceived.

They may well be right. As written, the agreement, which will cost the state in excess of $3 billion, would end with the state having no equity in the structures. And it doesn’t address many of the pressing challenges that currently exist, such as staffing, overcrowding, and inmate conditions.

The prison problem requires a thoroughly vetted plan that will address the key concerns in a cost-effective manner at its simplest, and preferably position the state to meet needs of a corrections system for decades into the future.

Officials must scrap the lease agreement and start from scratch.

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