Our view

Our View editorials are opinion pieces written by Outlook staff.

Montgomery has been a buzz for the last week with the sounds of pen strokes just before the legislature came into session.

Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner Jeff Dunn said last week the negotiations with national private prison company CoreCivic were private.

Rumors of an overestimated $3 billion, 30-year lease deal leaked Friday and Gov. Kay Ivey signed mounds of documents Monday without lawmakers having input. The deal only puts two of three rumored prisons on the table.

Ivey hopefully has saved state prisons from a federal takeover but at what cost?

The gavel was about to strike for the legislature to deal with the matter. State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) even said it was number two on the agenda behind COVID-19 pandemic efforts.

Yes, prisons are overcrowded. Yes, there are issues within the prisons — namely mental health and safety of both guards and prisoners. Yes, the Alabama Bureau of Pardon and Paroles was denying record numbers of parole requests until late last year. Yes, the United States Department of Justice filed suit last month and is threatening to take over.

What is a couple months?

Surely the DOJ would wait and see if the lawmakers would deal with it. Why couldn’t Ivey wait to sign the lease agreements with CoreCivic until the end of the session to see if lawmakers failed? Maybe lawmakers could have fixed the issue and the state would have ownership of the prisons. What happens in 30 years? Does the state sign another lease?

Why all the secrecy and rush?

Ivey said the funds were there for lease agreements as long as the legislature kept funding the same. Why not tell those things to lawmakers add a little extra funding and the state now has 50-year facilities it owns?

Usually when things are done behind closed doors, rumors of back pockets filling emerge.

Sunshine Laws exist for a reason, to make sure no one is personally benefiting. By failing to put this on the table with lawmakers for this session, Ivey has locked the door.

When will we know who the possible benefactors are of closed door negotiations?

The Outlook doesn’t fault Ivey for taking the bull by the horns and tackling the prison issue, but more public discussion was needed to quell the fear of taxpayers with decades of mistrust of Montgomery.