Alabama Appleseed is proud of our role in the grassroots effort to thwart the state’s plan to build three private mega-prisons in rural Alabama. This plan was the worst of all worlds: it would have resulted in three costly new prisons that would not be owned by the state but would be operated by the same Department of Corrections whose decades of mismanagement and malfeasance have gotten us where we are.
Our opponents, including giant companies like CoreCivic that are seeking to profit from Alabama’s reliance on mass incarceration, have cast our work to stop private prisons as irresponsible, claiming that opposing private prisons means endorsing the consignment of tens of thousands of incarcerated Alabamians to decrepit facilities.
But make no mistake: The choice has never been between building private prisons and letting our neighbors rot in deadly ones.
Alabama can change our laws, our policies, and our practices. People who harm others should face consequences for their actions, but those consequences should be proportional. That means:
- changes to the criminal code
- sentencing reform
- re-examining the use of prison to house elderly people
- expanded use of parole coupled with meaningful re-entry support
- investment in mental health
- accessible diversion programs that allow low-level offenders a second chance
- smarter drug policy to provide more treatment outside of prison
We reject the myth that Alabama faces a binary choice between the status quo and the construction of new prisons. Instead, we ask: how much could Alabama accomplish by investing billions of dollars into our people and communities, rather than using that money to repeat the mistakes that landed us here?
Our state is known internationally for its history of racial violence and its present-day crisis of mass incarceration. It simply does not have to be this way. We can do better. We must.