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Lawyer: Prison plans raise environmental, financial concerns

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A community that is fighting plans to build a 3,000-inmate prison in Bibb County on Monday asked for a meeting with the governor, arguing the project raises environmental concerns for the area and financial concerns for all taxpayers in Alabama.

Birmingham attorney Chris Christie, who represents Block the Brierfield Prison, wrote in a letter to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey that the proposed prison could hurt the local water supply. He said the “environmental impact on the Brierfield area needs serious study before deciding whether to move forward.”

Christie noted any well dug for the project would create a “cone of depression” that could pull water away from residents and businesses, and would diminish the water flow of Mahan Creek and the Little Cahaba River.

Christie said there are also financial questions about the state’s plan to lease the privately built facilities.
While the residents opposing the prison have hired a lawyer, the letter did not mention any possible legal action.

“They ask the governor to protect Brierfield residents specifically and Alabama taxpayers generally,” Christie wrote.

Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey, said the governor’s office had not received the letter as of early Monday afternoon.

The U.S. Department of Justice has twice accused Alabama of keeping male inmates in unconstitutional conditions because of violence and other problems.

The federal department said male inmates face excessive inmate-on-inmate violence, sexual abuse and a pattern of excessive force by staff in facilities that are not sanitary, safe or secure. The department is in negotiations with the state in an attempt to reach an agreement.

Christie’s letter to the governor said the Department of Justice suggested multiple remedial measures that will not be addressed by building new prisons.

“Surely addressing the current cruel conditions in Alabama’s prisons is a priority before building new prisons,” Christie wrote.

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