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


In a state the place 28% of residents are Black, but constitute 43% of people in jail and 54% of people in prison, in accordance to the Vera Institute of Justice, this use of relief funding is an outrageous and discriminatory motion and demonstrates an appalling lack of progress within the matter of racial justice for the state and the nation.
This comes months after a gaggle of traders, enterprise leaders and social justice advocates successfully pressured Barclays, KeyBanc and others to pull out of financing a $630 million taxable municipal bond providing by the Alabama Department of Corrections that will have constructed two new jail services with the non-public jail agency CoreCivic.
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Despite this, and regardless of outcry from the native Communities Not Prisons coalition, in addition to different traders and advocates, who have cited the transfer as each merciless and fiscally irresponsible, Gov. Ivey and Alabama lawmakers stay hellbent on constructing prisons — and utilizing Covid relief funds to assist do it– relatively than mitigating a pandemic in a state that has solely in latest weeks climbed out of its deficit of ICU beds, and the place 79% of hospitalized adults are unvaccinated.

Covid relief funds ought to be spent to rent and pay well being staff, develop hospital services and beds to take care of critically ailing sufferers, assist public well being campaigns to enhance vaccination charges and way more. Not put extra folks in cages.

Yet, Ivey has defended the move as a fiscally conservative one, noting that, “while our prison infrastructure is broken, our ability to govern is not.”

That convoluted logic must be rapidly turned on its head. Using federal relief {dollars} to build prisons units a harmful precedent, enabling, even encouraging, different states to comply with go well with. Moreover, it can make sure that important pandemic relief in Alabama (and doubtlessly throughout the nation, if different states take Ivey’s lead) stays unaddressed — inflicting maybe catastrophic long-term financial and human penalties.

The transfer is a vivid instance of a troubling sample by Republicans in conservative bastions to use the cash for politically charged want lists. In Galveston County, Texas, county commissioners are spending $6.6 million in Covid relief funds for safety on the US-Mexico border wall. In Wyoming, one GOP lawmaker suggested using the funds to push again in opposition to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies.
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In 1963, Robert F. Kennedy, then legal professional common, helped harness the facility of his brother John F. Kennedy’s presidential bully pulpit to push by way of and implement groundbreaking adjustments in racial relations, actions that finally led to the introduction of civil rights legislation.
Biden must break his silence on this egregious misuse of taxpayer {dollars}, significantly in Alabama, a state that’s woefully behind the curve on all elements of social providers, from public health access and care, to wastewater infrastructure to education for children and extra, and that accounts for one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

Building extra prisons doesn’t make communities protected, and it by no means has. Instead, it reinforces the entice of our nation’s racially biased felony authorized system, which disproportionately attracts those that are poor, Black, Brown and Indigenous into the system, inflicting upon them bodily and psychological hurt within the course of, separating and destabilizing households, creating boundaries to employment and erecting programs that lead to recidivism.

Bailing out the Alabama Department of Corrections by utilizing Covid relief {dollars} sorely wanted elsewhere feeds and reinforces the corruption and mismanagement that has plagued the agency for decades. This contains human rights abuses inflicted on the largely Black jail inhabitants.

Only by explicitly prohibiting any state from utilizing federal {dollars} for these functions, will we lastly middle communities of coloration who’ve been disproportionately affected by the crushing impacts of Covid-19 to get better and obtain financial prosperity.

Inaction on this difficulty is nothing greater than injustice.



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