Tell Gov. Ivey: No New Prisons in Alabama
The State of Alabama again finds itself at crossroads in its halting path toward racial equality. Governor Kay Ivey is quickly moving forward on a plan to spend $2.6 billion on three new mega prisons with capacity to lock up 10,000 more people. Already, Alabama has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates and a prison population that is 54% Black, though the state is only 27% Black. This plan perpetuates the U.S.’s racially-biased mass incarceration system at a time when other cities and states are addressing the harms done by over-policing, over-prosecuting, and over-incarcerating Black people. While America is re-imaging law enforcement, Alabama is doubling down and building prisons. This massive prison build would also inject billions of capital into a flailing private prison industry that has relied in recent years on immigrant detention centers that separate parents from their children at the U.S. border.
Perhaps most troubling is that this plan vastly expands the worst prison system in America. In April 2019, and again in July 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) declared the entire Alabama prison system for men in violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama prisons have a homicide rate eight times the national average. Between 2015 and 2020, at least 45 people became victims of homicide while in state custody, including two killed by corrections officers. So many people are assaulted and killed that the Department of Corrections has lost track of the deaths, according to the DOJ report .
Civil rights groups, advocates, and people directly impacted by this brutal system have organized to fight prison expansion. We and our allies are pushing the state to instead invest in alternatives to incarceration, increased mental health and drug treatment, education, re-entry support, and sentencing reform. Billions for new buildings makes those investments impossible. For a massive prison expansion to take hold in Alabama, where so many civil rights battles were fought and won in the 1950s and 1960s, is simply unacceptable.
But time is running out. Contracts are on pace to be signed by fall 2020 .