Whoever is elected the next governor of Alabama will face the daunting task of fixing Alabama's prison system and taking on the two new prison projects that could cost the state billions.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who many expect to make a run for the governor's mansion after Gov. Kay Iver terms out, said a federal takeover of Alabama's prison system "would be bad for our state."

On a recent episode of "1819 News: The Podcast," he said, "If I was governor, I would continue with the construction of the prisons. I think we got to have those. I would rehab the prisons we could have, and then I would assess where we're at and do we need to build another prison. I think we've got to have space. That's got to be a priority in the state. Fortunately, the state's doing well. We can afford to build these right now."

In a 2021 special session, the Alabama Legislature approved $1.3 billion in funding for two prisons. However, the price of just one 4,000-bed facility in Elmore County is estimated to cost over $1 billion on its own.

With construction and material costs falling since their peaks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ainsworth believes there is room to negotiate a lower overall price tag.

"I think on that, on the construction side, I think there are ways to save money," Ainsworth said. "There are ways to continue to make sure we negotiate to get the best price there."

However, regardless of cost, Ainsworth said it's vital that Alabama have a strong prison system to reduce crime in the state.

"I think a good deterrent to crime is prison," he said. "If you do something wrong, there needs to be a punishment, and so this idea that we need to let people out, I'm not for… Certainly, the goal needs to be to not let the feds take over. I think we also got to make sure we don't let contractors take advantage of the state."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email daniel.taylor@1819news.com.

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