New Alabama Federal Prison Nears Completion

ALICEVILLE, Ala. — Construction on the new federal prison outside Aliceville is nearly complete.

Alan Harper, Director of Economic Development for the City of Aliceville, estimates that construction will wrap up within two months. Final touches are currently being added to the facility, he said.

Completion is two months behind an estimate made early this year by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The BOP originally said the project would be complete in September 2011.

Construction on the $250 million, 1,500-bed medium-security women’s prison began in 2008. The prison will employ about 350 people and inject approximately $35 million into the local and regional economy.

The facility also includes a 256-bed minimum-security work camp.

The project was awarded as a design-build project using a negotiated procurement, which allows contractors’ input on all aspects of the project. The project received funding in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The project aims to reduce overcrowding in female federal prison facilities. At the beginning of this year, crowding in such facilities was 44 percent over capacity.

Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons says the prison will be finished in November, money for the prison’s activation is still in question because, as of press time, Congress had not yet passed its 2012 budget.

Except for a few positions, hiring cannot begin until Congress appropriates money to
activate and operate the prison.

The Bureau of Prisons had advertised internally for 15 jobs at the prison, and one person had been hired as a warehouse manager.

Because they will be experienced hires, they will be used to activate the prison, Harper said.

The bulk of the hiring will take place after the 2012 Congressional budget is passed and the prison is activated.

To accommodate the prison, upgrades are being made to Aliceville’s water and sewer infrastructure. Harper said those upgrades would be brought online in the next 30 to 45 days.

Improvements to the system include constructing two water tanks, expanding the wastewater treatment plant, and laying several miles of water and sewer line, Harper said.

City officials believe the prison will bring jobs to the area and a much-needed boost to the economy. A correctional officer’s starting salary at the Aliceville prison will be approximately $30,000, with benefits and 20-year retirement, which is a significant income for the area, said Harper.

Although the prison has not yet opened, city officials say the local economy has already benefited from the project. Construction workers have brought in more business than usual for restaurants, hardware stores, auto parts stores, and gas stations, according to Harper.

Harper credits Senator Richard Shelby and the Alabama congressional delegation with securing funding for the prison.

A tough, new law targeting illegal immigration was recently passed in Alabama, but a federal judge temporarily halted the law in August from taking effect.

The law, along with a similar laws passed in Arizona and Georgia in 2010 and 2011, is seen by some opponents as an attempt by the private prison industry to profit by incarcerating a greater number of illegal immigrants than the law previously allowed.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn, a Republican appointee nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush, issued the order to postpone the law until September 29.

In issuing her order, Blackburn did not rule on the merits of the legal challenges, saying she needed more time to do so.