THEODORE, Ala. (WKRG) — Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler is known for sometimes colorful, provocative, or controversial statements. This weekend that tradition continued with what he describes as an “obituary for the almost-dead prison plan” in Alabama. Zeigler delivered his “obituary” during a meeting of the conservative Common Sense Campaign in Theodore.
The speech comes weeks after potential financiers of the multi-billion dollar plan to build new prisons in the state pulled out of the project. In his remarks, Zeigler called the prison plan a “boondoggle” or “scheme” adding in his words “The cause of death was justifiable homicide.” The original plan would have seen the building of three modern prison facilities, one near Atmore, Al. in Escambia County, and one in Bibb and in Elmore Counties. It was a deal that has seen harsh criticism, particularly from members of the legislature and the state auditor.
You can read the full “obituary” below:
Obituary for Gov. Ivey’s $3.6 Billion Prison Lease Plan
By State Auditor Jim Zeigler
The prison lease plan birthed by Gov. Kay Ivey died in May, 2021. The plan was known by nick names of “Boondoggle” and “Scheme.”
Parents of the plan were: Mother, Kay Ivey. Co-Fathers were Jeff Dunn, Commissioner of the so-called Department of Corrections, and Jo Bonner, the Governor’s Chief of Staff and Acting Governor. Both of these officials were appointed by Gov. Ivey and serve at her pleasure.
The cause of death was justifiable homicide. The plan was killed by the taxpayers of Alabama, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, citizens living near the proposed prison sites, and citizen action groups from the right and left.
The plan was hatched behind closed doors in 2019 and 2020. Supporters of the plan did not involve or inform the Alabama legislature, the taxpayers, or the news media.
Beneficiaries of the plan would have been three private consortiums of businesses, two of which were identical twins. The primary beneficiary would have been a Tennessee company named CoreCivic. CoreCivic has a checkered track record in the private prison business in other states. Google it.
Alabama would have contracted with the private consortiums to construct three privately-owned super-prisons in Elmore, Bibb and Escambia Counties, Alabama. The state would have leased the prisons from the contractors for 30 years. State taxpayers would have paid rent starting at $96 million a year and rising to $108 million a year. After paying out over $3.6 billion in 30 years, the state would own equity in the prisons of ZERO. After 30 years and over $3.6 billion, the state would have nothing to show for it. The same contractors who received the $3.6 billion would own the prisons 100%.
The cost of this plan would have been three times what it should have cost. The state could build its own prisons using low-cost bonds for about one-third the cost of the Ivey plan. Building and owning our own prisons is the way the state of Alabama has always built prisons before Gov. Ivey.
The plan required upfront financing of an estimated $600 million. Alabama-based Regions Bank withdrew its credit line from CoreCivic in January. The two largest underwriters, Barclays of London and KeyBank of Cleveland, pulled out of the Ivey plan in April. The one remaining potential investor, Stifle, has made no decision as to whether to recommend the risky Ivey plan to its investors. Having no investors would stifle the plan and cause a quick death.
A memorial service was held for the prison plan May 8 at Fowl River Community Center in south Mobile County. Arrangements were by the Common Sense Campaign. The obituary was given by Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler.