A national best selling author, attorney and advocate for prisoners and justice in Alabama says Governor Robert Bentley’s plan to close some prisions and build more isn’t the answer for fixing the state’s broken system.
Bryan Stevenson, the head of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, calls Bentley’s plan to build four new prisons “misguided and reckless,” according to WBRC in Birmingham.
Stevenson says the plan ignores the real problems going on behind bars: riots, abuse, corruption and harassment.
“It’s like a team that has a losing record every season that says, ‘Well, the solution is to build a new stadium,’ Stevenson said. “That’s not going to get you a better team.”
Stevenson believes Bentley’s proposal isn’t about corrections at all, but funding corporate interests through an $800 million bond issue.
“We’re not doing rehabilitation in Alabama. We’re certainly not doing corrections,” Stevenson said. “What we’re doing is creating environments where people are literally dying and being victimized by sexual assaults on a daily basis.”
The proposed $800 million will not go to improving the quality or conditions of confinement, Stevenson sayd.
“It’s not going to go to correctional staff. It’s not going to go to workers in the prisons,” he said. “It’s going to go big corporate businesses that build prisons. It’s going to go to lawyers. It’s going to go to contractors.”
Stevenson also questioned why the plan calls for building so many prisons so fast.
“We’re not just building a new prison,” he said. “We’re going to build four before we know if we can have any success with it at all.”
He points to the stark contrast made in studies conducted by groups like the National Institute of Corrections and the Center For State Government. After a year-long study, none of them recommended building four super max prisons.
What would be better, Stevenson says, is to look at other states that had problems like Alabama, such as Angola Prison in Louisiana or Marion prison in Ohio, which he considers a model prison.
“They did it through programs, through volunteer programs, through better classification, through better services and better management,” he said.
Those are the same types of recommendations Stevenson’s group and others have submitted to Bentley, at a cost of much less than $800 million.
“I think nothing has been more misguided than what we are about to do which is spend hundreds of millions of dollars towards new prison without new policies,” he said.
But Stevenson says those alternative recommendations have been ignored by the governor, and instead, there’s a plan on the table that will hit Alabama right in the pocketbook for years and years to come.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.