Despite approving a $1.3 billion prison construction plan more than a year ago, the state of Alabama remains under the federal government's scrutiny for potential Eighth Amendment violations in its state prisons.
The alarm bells were sounded back during the Trump administration on numerous occasions by Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, including by then-U.S. Attorney Jay Town.
Although Town left the Trump Justice Department in July 2020, he continues to insist state policymakers, including the Alabama Legislature, act with urgency for short-term fixes to some of the Alabama Department of Corrections problems.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Town criticized state lawmakers and said it would not be Gov. Kay Ivey's fault if the DOJ and the federal courts impose a solution on the state.
"[T]his will impact all of us," Town said. "And that's why if you are a legislator, and you are sent to Montgomery to lead, then lead or get out of the way and let somebody else do it. It's not Kay Ivey's fault this is the situation we are in. She came up with a plan: Build two super prisons. It looks like we're going to do that but never was it delegated to her that that was some sort of short-term or near-term solution. That's ridiculous. Nobody could have thought that.
"You can't build two super prisons with 8,000 beds in a couple of months, right? The trial is next year. The prisons are going to be built in four. What's your plan, legislature? Nothing? You're going to blame Kay? To me, I just find it very disingenuous. This problem goes back to at least 2019, really 2016. And if you have been there since then, which everybody who just got reelected has been, then I'm troubled about how they would be complaining about the situation. Well, the situation is you've done nothing – very little, anyway."
Town went on to ask questions that the DOJ is likely to ask at the trial next year.
"What have you done about staffing?" he added. "What have you done about getting guards better pay to go to our correctional facilities? What have [you] done about at least appropriating to fix all of the issues? For instance, let's have some cameras that work in some of these prisons. Let's have mirrors that work that aren't broken. Get more guards. All of these things are things that need to be done. And we need to appropriate to those things. But let's build 15 more bridges in Mobile. That's how we can spend millions of dollars. That makes great sense when we're staring at this huge issue right in our face that we're just a few months away from being told exactly what we need to do in Alabama – and that's not an Alabama solution. That's a DOJ solution. That's never a good solution if you can choose the alternative."
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.