By Rebekah Rees and Devon M. Sayers | CNN
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed several prison infrastructure bills on Friday that will use coronavirus relief funds to build new prisons in the state, calling it a “critical moment for the trajectory of our state’s criminal justice system”.
Ive, a Republican, called a special session of the Alabama Legislature to discuss how to fix the decades-long problem of prison infrastructure challenges. The governor said the signing of Friday’s bill was the culmination of hard work and negotiations between lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“I would like to personally extend my thanks to the legislative leadership who are standing behind me here for a successful special session, and what we believe will bring untold benefits to all Alabamians in the days to come,” Ivey said.
Earlier this week, Ivey defended his proposal to use the allocation of the state’s COVID-19 relief fund to build prisons after criticism from Democrats. The proposal included using up to $400 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, up to $785 million in bonds, and more than $154 million from state general funds to link prisons and renovate others.
The state legislature gave the final approval to the package on Friday.
The federal rescue package was put in place to help states plug budget holes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the Biden administration has been tight-lipped about how the money can be used to protect “critical public services,” including offset revenue deficits. It has issued comprehensive guidance on this. The administration has also encouraged state and local governments to use some of the funds to address the heat rise in violent crime.
The use of federal funds on prisons would help all Alabamians, according to Ivey, who introduced the idea of reducing the burden for taxpayers when building prisons.
In a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday, Ive described the state’s prison infrastructure as “broken,” saying, “The Democrat-controlled federal government has never had a problem throwing trillions of dollars toward its ideological pet projects. ” “The fact is, the American Rescue Planning Act allows these funds to be used to make up for lost revenue and sending a letter at the last hour will not change the way the law is written. These prisons need to be built, and we devised a financially conservative plan that would allow Alabamians to spend the least amount of money to obtain the necessary solution.
Ivy was responding to a letter from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she called on Monday to “take all reasonable steps to prevent misuse” of funds by Alabama and other states.
“Funding directed to protect our citizens from mass incarceration fueled by a pandemic is in direct violation of the intended purposes of the ARP law and would particularly harm communities of color that are already under-incarceration and this public health disproportionately affected by the crisis.” The New York Democrat wrote. “It should not be used to worsen the over-imprisonment situation of our national problem.”
The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment on Ivey’s statements.
Pastor Robert White, who runs a legal advocacy group advocating for prisoner’s rights, previously told CNN that “we can use this money on mental health, on our sewage system. Covid is still going on; we need to use this money.” should be used on our health care system.”
“We are not saying that there is no need to build prisons. We are saying that this money needs to go to mental health, education, not plantation in the middle. The problem does not change. The killings do not stop,” he continued. kept.