Alabama Plan To Spend COVID Funds on Prisons Improper Says Treasury Dept.

Alabama plan to use COVID funds for prisons.
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Photo: EJI

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Following over a thousand public comments, including those from SPLC Action Fund and our coalition partners with Communities Not Prisons, months of protest, and outcries from dozens of local organizations, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued its Final Rule on acceptable usage of State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds (SLFRF). Under the rule, Alabama’s plan to spend $400 million of COVID-19 relief funds is not allowed. 

SPLC Action Fund has repeatedly argued against Alabama’s plan to spend $400 million in relief funds on prison construction on moral and legal grounds. The 437-page Final Rule makes clear that these funds were intended to support our overburdened hospitals, provide housing relief for our neighbors, and bring much-needed assistance to our struggling counties and municipalities; they were never meant to be used for prison construction.  

“Not only is this decision immoral and unethical, it also goes against Congress’ original intent for this funding package – to provide relief to states struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” SPLC Action Fund said previously in its public comments. “This action will not alleviate that suffering. Instead, it will contribute to the continued long-term incarceration of people across the state of Alabama while setting a dangerous precedent for spending by other municipalities, counties and state governments.”   

The following is a statement from Katie Glenn, policy associate for the SPLC Action Fund.  

“The SPLC Action Fund thanks the U.S. Department of the Treasury for affirming, in its Final Rule, what we always knew: American Rescue Plan Funds should be used to help our communities, not to build new cages for our neighbors. It is our hope that the U.S. Department of Treasury will enforce this rule and tell Alabama they cannot use that money for prisons.     

 “When the Legislative Session begins this week, Alabama lawmakers and Governor Kay Ivey should return to the drawing board on criminal legal reform and begin investing in real solutions like decarceration and decriminalization instead of continuing down this failed path. Public health experts agree that the best solution to the harm caused by COVID-19 on people who are incarcerated people is release – particularly of those who are elderly or infirm. We look forward to the U.S. Department of Treasury enforcing its rule and to the day when Alabama lawmakers invest in our communities, not in more prisons.”  

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