Policy Documents

What To Do About The Prison Problem: The Pros and Cons of Privatized in Alabama

Kirk A. Johnson –
November 28, 2006

In his January 2006 State of the State Address, Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama argued in favor of
long-needed prison reform when he said, “But no matter how much we invest in public safety,
we will continue facing threats to our security as long as we ignore the challenges in our
corrections system. These problems have built up for decades…With your approval of these
reforms, we’ll alleviate our prison and jail crowding problems, we’ll keep violent criminals
locked up, and we’ll make Alabama a safer place to live.”

Along with a growing number of state legislators, Gov. Riley recognizes the challenges facing
Alabama’s prison system. Not unlike a variety of other areas in the nation, the state’s
correctional system is grossly overcrowded and desperately in need of expansion. Alabama’s 30
correctional and work release facilities are at double their capacities as originally built, according
to the state Department of Corrections’ annual report.

One way that most other states, as well as some federal agencies, have dealt with growing
correctional populations for more than 20 years is by contracting out prison construction and
management to an outside company. In fact, all four states bordering Alabama have contracted
with one or more private companies for prison services.