State Signs Prison Construction Contract, Quiet On Details

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama officials have signed a contract to build a new state prison — part of a $1.3 billion construction plan partly using pandemic relief funds — but have not released many of the details.

A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey confirmed the state signed a contract with Caddell Construction Co., effective April 15 for construction of a specialized men’s prison facility in Elmore County, “that will provide enhanced medical and mental health services."

“The new facility will create a safer security environment for inmates and security personnel. Our construction timeline continues to remain on schedule,” Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey, wrote in an email.

The Alabama Department of Corrections on Wednesday declined to release a copy of the contract. A spokeswoman said it needed to be redacted and that would take some time because it is a lengthy contract. The department did not immediately respond to an email seeking information about the cost or the size of the prison.

Ivey's office indicated the prison system should be be able to provide a copy of the “publicly available contract documents in the coming days.”

Alabama lawmakers this fall approved a $1.3 billion prison construction plan that will use $400 million from the state’s share of American Rescue Plan funds to help pay for the construction. The construction plan included a new prison in Elmore County with at least 4,000 beds and enhanced space for medical and mental health care needs.

It also included another prison with at least 4,000 beds in Escambia County, a new women’s prison and renovations to existing facilities.

Lawmakers had expected one of the construction contracts to go to Montgomery-based Caddell Construction. The legislation specified that, instead of the normal bid process, the state instead could negotiate directly with entities that were part of development teams that qualified for the projects under a lease plan Ivey’s administration had pursued but abandoned. Lawmakers said that would save time and build on the work already done.

Ivey in October called the construction plan, “a pivotal moment” for improving the state’s criminal justice system. Critics of the plan said it did not address the underlying problems, such as low staffing, and was not a proper use of pandemic relief funds.