Alabama GOP Governor Signs for COVID-19 Relief Funds to Build Prisons

In Summary

Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed on the dotted line Friday to allow $400 million in COVID-19 relief funding to go toward building new prisons in the state.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has placed her signature on legislation that allows COVID-19 relief funds to build new prisons in the state, a move she calls “a pivotal moment for the trajectory of our state’s criminal justice system,” per The Hill’s Jordan Williams

The legislature convened a special session on Monday to debate a $1.3 billion building plan to construct three new prisons and refurbish existing ones, with $400 million being financed with funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. 

RELATED: Southern States at the Center of Rising COVID-19 Infections, Hospitalizations 

“Addressing our decades-long prison infrastructure challenges is not easy, but sometimes, doing the right thing and the hard thing are one in the same. This is not a victory lap because there is more legislative work to be done this week; this is the halfway point for the prison construction bills,” Ivey said in a statement. “The work done today will help lead to solutions that will greatly benefit all Alabamians for decades to come.” 

Democratic State Representative Teri Sewell is among those who criticized Alabama’s proposal to use over 20% of its $2.1 billion for prison building, per The Associated Press, noting it was not the relief program’s goal. 

“The use of COVID-19 relief funds to pay for decades of our state’s neglect is simply unacceptable,” Sewell said. “COVID-19 relief money should be used for COVID-19 relief. Period.” However, she acknowledged the current state of Alabama’s prison system is “abhorrent.” 

RELATED: Alabama Lawmakers Aim to Cut Racist Rhetoric From State Constitution 

Ivey defended her plan in a statement posted to her Twitter account last Tuesday, saying “the Democrat-controlled federal government has never had an issue with throwing trillions of dollars toward their ideological pet projects.” 

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package in March, delivering a direct supply of funding to states, cities and local governments to help them recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Vaccination programs, unemployment insurance, personal stimulus payments and an increase in the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are all included in the package, among other things.

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