Alabama Hopes To Use COVID-19 Relief Funds To Build Prisons


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Lawmakers in the state of Alabama are facing intense backlash after presenting a $1.3 billion construction plan that would use pandemic relief funds to build prisons. As reported by the Associated Press, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey hopes to combat a lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department regarding the state's poor prisons by renovating several facilities and building three new detention centers.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Senator Greg Albritton told the AP.

“We can’t expect people to come to work when they don’t know they’re going to be able to leave work alive. We can’t expect to house people, inmates, in conditions that are deteriorating and unhealthy. We’ve got to fix the problems. The prisons are falling in.”

In response, critics have explained that the state's issues extend far beyond the conditions of prisons. Rather, activists and journalists are pushing for change within the state's overarching criminal justice and policing systems.

"Using COVID money to build prisons is OK, but minor reforms, including making an existing reform retroactive, is just too much pretty much sums up [the Alabama GOP] and Alabama's prison problems," reporter Josh Moon tweeted.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also shared their disdain for Ivey's efforts. Recently, Rep. Jerry Nadler sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen imploring the Treasury Department to “prevent the misuse of (American Rescue Plan) funding by any state, including Alabama” to build jails.

"I'm deeply disturbed that the state of Alabama is considering a plan to use $400 million of COVID-19 aid from the American Rescue Plan to build prisons, especially as the virus rages on in our state," Sewell stated.

"To be clear, the current state of the Alabama prison system is abhorrent, but the use of COVID-19 relief funds to pay for decades of neglect is simply unacceptable."

Governor Ivey did not take too kindly to Nadler's letter. In fact, she issued a statement of her own in response.

"I would suggest to the New York Congressman, and for that matter the federal government, that they worry more about avoiding the pending government shutdown and running the country," Ivey wrote in a statement obtained by The Hill.

"We are in a special session right now to protect the people of Alabama from a costly federal intervention, and I really couldn’t care less about the opinion of Washington liberals," state lawmaker Greg Reed added on Twitter.

Contrary to Reed's tweet, out of state lawmakers are not the only critics calling out Ivey's plan. Recently, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell voiced her displeasure with the state's plan via Twitter.

"I'm deeply disturbed that the State of Alabama is considering a plan to use $400 million of COVID-19 aid from the American Rescue Plan to build prisons, especially as the virus rages on in our state," she stated.

"To be clear, the current state of the Alabama prison system is abhorrent, but the use of COVID-19 relief funds to pay for decades of neglect is simply unacceptable."

In the midst of this political back and forth, Alabama residents are still being hit hard by COVID-19. Last week, the New York Times reported that the state's birth rate was lower than its death rate in 2020.

"[For] he first time in Alabama's history, the state had more deaths than births in 2020. Such a large gap was not recorded during World War I, World War II or 1918 pandemic," epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding said.

"Anyone still saying COVID not big deal is gaslighting."

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