Alabama Republicans want to use Covid relief funds to build prisons!

Montgomery, Alabama – Alabama has been one of the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus, but Republicans in the state apparently want to divert relief funds for another purpose altogether: building prisons.

Alabama Republicans want to use $400 million in federal Covid relief funds to build three new prisons and renovate existing facilities (stock image).
Alabama Republicans want to use $400 million in federal Covid relief funds to build three new prisons and renovate existing facilities (stock image).  © 123rf/agfang

Even though Alabama has the highest Covid-19 death rate in the nation, GOP politicians in the state want to use around $400 million in federal pandemic relief funds to construct and renovate prison infrastructure, The Guardian reported.

The figure amounts to around 20% of total relief funds the state has received.

The investment would be part of a $1.3-billion project to build three new prisons and renovate existing facilities, which Republican Governor Kay Ivey said was a means of addressing safety concerns in prisons.

Bob Dole, influential former Republican senator, passes away
US politics Bob Dole, influential former Republican senator, passes away

Alabama has a terrible record when it comes to prison safety, but analysts say this is mostly due to staffing, training, lack of healthcare, and corruption problems, rather than an insufficient number of facilities.

Prisons have also been sites of major Covid outbreaks across the country, but experts say that releasing the prisoners – a huge number of which haven't even been convicted of a crime – is actually a much better solution to the crisis than building new facilities.

Plus, it's not as if Alabama doesn't need the Covid relief funds. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, has said that millions of dollars are needed to help the state overcome the pandemic.

The pandemic and lack of adequate resources will hit Alabamans of color hardest. Black and Latinx Alabamans are also far more likely to be incarcerated, meaning that they will be hit doubly hard by the measures if they pass.

US House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler asked the Treasury Department on Monday to "prevent the misuse of [relief] funding by any state, including Alabama."

Cover photo: 123rf/agfang

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