Alabama lawmakers say prison plan will continue despite cost jump

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama legislative leaders said Thursday they will proceed with plans to build two super-size prisons, despite the cost estimate for the first one mushrooming to nearly $1 billion.

The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority on Wednesday increased the spending cap for the 4,000-bed prison in Elmore County, from $623 million to $975 million. Alabama Finance Director Bill Poole said the change was needed after inflation and design alterations caused the projected cost to rise.

“I wish it wasn’t there, but as all of you know, inflation has hit us pretty hard over the last few months and that’s certainly a reflection of that,” House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter told reporters.

Asked if the state will be able to build both prisons, Ledbetter said he thinks the state will go forward with the plan. “I mean, there might be some adjustments along the way, but as all of you know we’ve got to do something,” Ledbetter said in reference to the state’s ongoing prison crisis.

Republican Rep. Rex Reynolds, the chairman of the House general fund committee, said he had been warned recently that the increase would be needed. “That’s tough. We didn’t see that coming when we first voted on the bond money,” Reynolds said.

Still, the move drew criticism from some Democrats.

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