Ground broken on new prison

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2004

Perry County officials along with representatives from Perry Detention Services, LLC. broke ground Tuesday morning on The Perry County Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

The facility, which will take 14 months and $20 million to build, will eventually house 888 inmates and employ 136 people.

“Very exciting day for Perry County, it’s a win-win situation for both the state of Alabama and Perry County,” County Commissioner Johnny Flowers said. “Because the state of Alabama doesn’t have to float bonds for $20 million dollars, it’s coming from the private sector.”

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The private company providing the investmenst is listed at Perry County, LLC and is described in a press release as a group of jail architects and builders with offices in Baton Rouge, La. and Clearwater, Fla.

According to the release, the Perry County Board of Commissioners issued a request for proposals for a private developer to design, build, finance, and assist in management of a new 880 bes adult correctional facility to be built in the county. Proposals were opened on March 23.

“It’s the first of it’s kind in the state,” Flowers said. “The state of Alabama the only thing they will have to do is a per diem per inmate, it won’t cost the state one penny to build.”

Fellow Commissioner Albert Turner added that though the proposals were opened on the 23rd, the process has taken longer than that.

“It’s been a year, we’ve been working on this a year,” he said. “Putting all the players together, making sure we’ve got the economic package that we need, making sure the commission is working cohesively together. Mr. Flowers and I did quite a bit of traveling making sure to lure this facility here.”

The release also stated that the board has formed a Correctional Authority.

The authority will operate the facility and will be responsible for it’s employees.

“Back in 1999 the state of Alabama passed a bill not to get into the private prisons business, so what is happening is the Perry County Commission has entered into an agreement with the state of Alabama and the Perry County Commission has entered into an agreement with this private entity to construct this facility and manage it,” Flowers said. “They’re going to build it, give to Perry County and then lease it back from Perry County for a dollar. Then we’re going to be part of the management process. They’re really going to run it because they are the ones in the prison business.”

According to documentation released on Tuesday, the 35,000 square foot facility will house 888 inmates and employe 136 people.

The annual payroll is estimated to be over $2.9 million.

“All of these jobs are going to come local.

These people that are constructing this facility made it clear that these are local jobs,” Flowers said.

Turner said it will help a county whose unemployment is in double figures.

“This will bring in 136 to 180 jobs for 1,300 inmates at full capacity so it’s going to be a great opportunity and a big economic boost for our economy,” Turner said.

According to the press packet, the facility will employ a warden, a deputy warden, an administrative assistant, a secretary, a mail clerk, a major of secruity, four captains, 20 lieutenants, 32 sergeants, 68 correctional officers, a registerd nurse, four licensed practical nurse and a teacher/library.

“All the employees will be employees of the county, therefore will have all the benefits of the state,” Turner said.

The facility will be a rehabilitation center as well.

Inmates are to be taught skills that will help them be able to join the workforce when they leave.

“There’s no mechanism right now to rehabilitate. We hope when these inmates end up in this facility that they’re just not going to be locked up and the key thrown away,” Flowers said. “They will leave this facility with some type of skill.”

Flowers said the plan was similar to some of the private prisons operated in Louisiana by the same people.

“They are trainging people on computers, they are teaching auto mechanics,” he said. “It’s just two different worlds what the state is doing for their inmates and what they are doing in these private facilities.”

Flowers said the facility could help part of Alabama’s problem with over-crowded prisons.

Last year, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles began issuing “dockets” to give early releases to prisoners.

“We would love to have it all male because we have more male inmates in the state prisons in Alabama and we have a shortage of space,” Flowers said. “The parole board has been expanded because of a lack of space.”

‘It will alleviate a big burden from the state,” Turner said. “I’m just glad Perry County is lending itself to be able to help the state eliminate it’s over crowding problems without putting people back into the streets.”

“Most every county in the state of Alabama would love to have this facility,” Flowers said. “We’ve been blessed in Perry County to have this facility here in the Blackbelt.”