Opinion: Alabama’s use of Covid aid funds to construct prisons should be stopped

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, based on the Vera Institute of Justice, this use of aid 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 drag 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 personal jail agency CoreCivic.
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 aid funds to assist do it– relatively than mitigating a pandemic in a state that has solely in current weeks climbed out of its deficit of ICU beds, and the place 79% of hospitalized adults are unvaccinated.

Covid aid funds must be spent to rent and pay well being employees, develop hospital services and beds to take care of critically sick sufferers, assist public well being campaigns to extend vaccination charges and way more. Not put extra individuals 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 should be rapidly turned on its head. Using federal aid {dollars} to construct prisons units a harmful precedent, enabling, even encouraging, different states to observe swimsuit. Moreover, it is going to be certain that very important pandemic aid in Alabama (and probably 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 make use of the cash for politically charged want lists. In Galveston County, Texas, county commissioners are spending $6.6 million in Covid aid 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 lawyer normal, helped harness the ability of his brother John F. Kennedy’s presidential bully pulpit to push by way of and implement groundbreaking adjustments in racial relations, actions that in the end led to the introduction of civil rights legislation.
Biden should 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 legal 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 limitations to employment and erecting methods that lead to recidivism.

Bailing out the Alabama Department of Corrections through the use of Covid aid {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 heart communities of shade who’ve been disproportionately affected by the crushing impacts of Covid-19 to get better and obtain financial prosperity.

Inaction on this concern is nothing greater than injustice.

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