Opinion: Alabama's use of Covid relief funds to build prisons must be stopped

October 14, 2021 at 01:17

Christina Hollenback is CEO of Justice Capital, an advisory and investment firm that invests toward safe, thriving Black, Brown and systems-impacted communities.
(CNN) Nearly 60 years after Alabama stood in the national spotlight for its resistance in ending racial segregation in American schools, the state's current governor, Kay Ivey, signed into law earlier this month a string of bills that will use coronavirus relief funds to build new prisons.
During a special legislative session late last month, state lawmakers, against calls from their own communities, quickly pushed through a measure approving the use of $400 million in Covid-19 federal relief funds to build new prisons and renovate others as part of a massive $1.3 billion boondoggle.
Despite this, and despite outcry from the local Communities Not Prisons coalition, as well as other investors and advocates, who have cited the move as both cruel and fiscally irresponsible, Gov.
Covid relief funds should be spent to hire and pay health workers, expand hospital facilities and beds to care for critically ill patients, support public health campaigns to increase vaccination rates and much more.
Using federal relief dollars to build prisons sets a dangerous precedent, enabling, even encouraging, other states to follow suit.
Moreover, it will ensure that vital pandemic relief in Alabama (and potentially across the nation, if other states take Ivey's lead) remains unaddressed -- causing perhaps catastrophic long-term economic and human consequences.
The move is a vivid example of a troubling pattern by Republicans in conservative bastions to use the money for politically charged wish lists.
In Galveston County, Texas, county commissioners are spending $6.6 million in Covid relief funds for security on the US-Mexico border wall.
In Wyoming, one GOP lawmaker suggested using the funds to push back against President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses.
Join us on Twitter and FacebookBailing out the Alabama Department of Corrections by using Covid relief dollars sorely needed elsewhere feeds and reinforces the corruption and mismanagement that has plagued the agency for decades .
This includes human rights abuses inflicted on the largely Black prison population.
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