Monday saw the filing of two additional lawsuits by individuals who are opposed to the construction of a new prison in Alabama. These individuals argue that the project is a waste of government funds and that it has pushed forward without conducting the necessary environmental evaluations.

The two cases, which were both submitted to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, are the most recent broadsides launched against the $1.3 billion proposal, which would create two men’s jails with 4,000 beds each in the counties of Elmore and Escambia.

Alabama Federal Court House

Both lawsuits have the same goal, which is to stop the state from using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARPA) totaling $400 million to finance the construction of new prisons. The defendants in both lawsuits are state agencies as well as the United States Department of the Treasury.

According to Eric Glass of Justice Capital, an investment company that has coordinated opposition to the project, “Alabama has fundamental issues around education, health care, the provision of health care, and sanitation.” “That is far more aligned with the spirit and intention of federal relief,” I said. “That makes a lot more sense.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Department of Finance asserted that the construction of new prisons was “absolutely and undeniably necessary to support the safety of both inmates and staff, to improve mental health care, to provide space for vocational and rehabilitative programs, and ultimately to protect public safety.” for a number of reasons, including the enhancement of mental health care, the provision of space for vocational and rehabilitation programs, and, ultimately, the protection of public safety.

According to the announcement, “The state continues to move towards closing its bond issue to finance these facilities,” The state intends to move to dismiss the lawsuits and will vigorously defend against the claims as being without merit. “No eleventh-hour lawsuits by inmates or activists will halt these efforts, and the state intends to move to dismiss the lawsuits and to vigorously defend against the claims as being without merit.” and the state intends to move to dismiss the lawsuits.

Alabama Jail

The Alabama Department of Corrections, the Alabama Department of Finance, and the United States Department of the Treasury have all received messages requesting comments on the matter.

After years of lobbying on the part of Governor Kay Ivey and the Department of Corrections, the project was finally given the go-ahead by the Alabama Legislature at the conclusion of a special session held in October of last year. The Department of Corrections (DOC) had stated that the existing jail facilities were not only hazardous but also lacked the space necessary for rehabilitation programs. Those in favor of the new correctional facilities said that they would require fewer staff members and would make room for greater programming.

Violence has been a persistent problem in Alabama’s correctional facilities for many years. In 2020, the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that the violence violated the Eighth Amendment rights provided to detainees to prevent cruel and unusual punishment. The opponents of the new construction said that it would not address the core cultural and personnel concerns that are generating the violence in state prisons.

Plaintiffs in the claims include people currently incarcerated in the state’s correctional facilities.

The plaintiffs in Bosarge et al. v. the United States Department of Treasury argue that the state violated the federal National Environmental Policy Act by failing to provide proper notice and time for the public to comment on the Elmore County prison, as well as by failing to consider the environmental impact of the prison. This occurred because the state failed to take into account the environmental impact of the prison (NEPA). The lawsuit contends that because the jails are funded in part by the federal government, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ought to apply to the building of the institutions.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants “have been engaged in construction-related activities and have appropriate funds for the construction” of the jails. It is the responsibility of the Defendant Treasury to ensure that NEPA regulations are followed.

The second case, Kincaid et al. v. United States Department of Treasury et al., argues that the Department of the Treasury should enforce its final rule on the use of ARPA money. This rule states that “construction of new correctional facilities as a response to an increase in the rate of crime” is “generally ineligible” for use of ARPA fund money. The plaintiffs in this case are asking that the Department of the Treasury enforce its rule.

According to the lawsuit, the state of Alabama “explicitly knew that the Treasury was set to weigh in on proper use of the funds” in the instance of Alabama because the state “submitted a letter requesting clarification about whether prisons could be financed with ARP financing.” “Rather than waiting for a response, Alabama moved forward with its prison plan, circumventing the authority of the Treasury to determine the proper use of funds that had been appropriated by congressional appropriations.”

Although the final rule makes it more difficult to spend ARPA funds on prisons, the Department of the Treasury issued compliance language in January that stated it “generally would not take action to enforce provisions contained in the final rule” if a government had already begun spending money in accordance with older, more general rules for spending ARPA funds. This language was published despite the fact that the final rule discourages the use of ARPA funds for prisons.

Last month, an inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility named Troy Connell filed a lawsuit to halt the project.

Connell said that the state was compelled by a federal court order to first enhance the staffing levels at prisons, and that the state had a responsibility to fulfill this requirement.

In order to finance the project, the state had planned to sell bonds for a total of $725 million, however the sale only brought in approximately $509 million. According to the Department of Finance, the conclusion of the bond auction occurred early on Tuesday morning.

Earlier this month, Bill Poole, the Director of State Finance, stated that officials would seek for other sources of funding, but that the project will proceed on schedule regardless of what other options were found. The state anticipates that the jails will be ready for use by the year 2026.

In our opinion, the state should take that $509 Million and use it for rehabilitation and education to curb it’s horrid rate of recidivism as opposed to ignoring the issues that are causing the need for a mega-prison to be built in the first place.