Senator Cam Ward represents District 14 which includes Bibb County and parts of Shelby and Chilton. For several years he has chaired a prison oversight committee, among his many other responsibilities, and has been charged with the task of helping the state to resolve the huge overcrowding problem with Alabama prisons.
in April 2019 he spoke with NPR’s Audie Cornish about a Justice Department report on Alabama’s unsafe and unconstitutional prison conditions. A report by the U.S. Department of Justice described disturbing conditions in Alabama’s prison system. It highlights prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse, issues of overcrowding and understaffing and the state’s highest-in-the-nation rate of prisoner homicides. The Justice Department says there’s reason to conclude the conditions in Alabama prisons are unconstitutional, in violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. It’s given the state 49 days to address the issues, otherwise the DOJ may sue.
Senator Ward has been saying for several years, and he said in 2019 to NPR “WARD: I think you’d take this report out, and as bad as it is for our state, this is something we hold in our hand and say, if we don’t fix this, they’re going to come in and force you to fix it, and that’s going to cost you a lot of money. And we’re a state that prides ourselves on being a 10th Amendment state, so if we’re really that proud of the 10th Amendment, then we need to fix this problem ourselves and not let a federal court or a receivership come and do it for us.
Today in Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced the Alabama Department of Corrections intends to enter into negotiations to build three new mega prisons in Alabama, the first project to be built in Bibb County, near Brierfield, with construction to start early in 2021. The Bibb County project will be the first of the three projects to start according to Senator Ward.
Senator Ward told The Bibb Voice today that due to pressure brought by the Department of Justice and due to structural deficiencies and deterioration the existing prison at Brent is scheduled to be phased out. The designation of Bibb County as Phase 1 for the new Mega Prison site means that no jobs will be lost due to the eventual closing of the Brent facility and every worker will be eligible to move to the new facility. In addition new jobs will be created due to the bigger size of the facility.
Senator Ward said the new facility will be a state of the art high security facility.