An exclusive News-5 Poll shows little support for Governor Robert Bentley’s prison reform plan, even after the riots earlier this month at the Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore.
Guards and the warden were injured when prisoners set a fire in one of the dormitories March 11. Prisoners also rioted March 14, communicating with News-5 by contraband cell phones, protesting what they say are deplorable conditions.
One day after the riots, Governor Robert Bentley toured Holman looked at the aftermath.
It seemed like the perfect opportunity to show that too many prisoners and too few guards in a too old facility leads to problems. A perfect opportunity to push his prison reform plan
“We have a solution and we’ve put that forward,” said Bentley.
The Governor’s solution is borrow $800 million to build three new mega-prisons in the state and close 13 of 15 existing male prisons.
An exclusive News-5/Strategy Poll, however, shows little support for the plan statewide.
64-percent of registered voters statewide say they’re against the plan.
Pollster and political consultant Jon Gray of Strategy Research says far from growing support for new prisons, the riots may have had an opposite effect.
“These people see the riots and the discord and the prisoners with cellphones, and drugs and rumors of entertainment and that makes people angry,” Gray said.
The poll, taken after the Holman riots, shows only 22-percent say relieving prison overcrowding should be a “high priority” for the state. 47-percent say it’s a medium priority. 31% say it’s a low priority
Gray says the Governor and other lawmakers may be failing to properly communicate the issue.
He says citizens may not care what prison conditions are like, but they do care if prisoners have to be released due to overcrowding
“So, if we don’t have more jail cells for people to go back into, guess where they’re coming back? They’re coming back to your neighborhood, your garage, your car, your house,” said Gray.
Bentley says improved efficiencies with the new prisons would pay the bond note for the new prisons and that no new taxes or funds diverted from other programs would be necessary.
The poll was conducted by telephone and has a margin of error of three-percent.