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Alabama Reopens Ancient Prison to Quarantine COVID-19 Prisoners

by Ed Lyon

Prisons are obvious contagion grounds for COVID-19, and conditions in Alabama are among the worst in the nation. Now, it appears, those conditions could get worse even as the coronavirus problem is rapidly spreading at prisons in Alabama and across the country.

On April 16, 2020 the Montgomery Advertiser reported that prisoners were being used to move beds into the ancient Draper Correctional Facility (DCF). DCF was built in 1938, making it 82 years old this year. It was toured by U.S. Justice Department investigators in 2017, during which the stench of raw sewage and toxic fumes the prisoners endured daily made one of the investigators physically ill.

ADOC announced the DCF’s closure a month later. An engineering study from that year estimated it would take at least $30 million to repair and renovate DCF up to minimum standards.

Prior to publication the newspaper queried ADOC, asking if it was planning to resurrect any of its closed prisons as part of its operational plans relating to the coronavirus. On April 8, 2020 ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Banks denied there were any such plans or intentions by ADOC.

In an abrupt turnabout eight days later, ADOC announced it had, in fact, readied DCF as a quarantine facility for 100 prisoners being transferred from the state’s increasingly overcrowded jails.

“New male intakes will be quarantined in the recently renovated vocational space, in the visitation building, and in a renovated portion on the Draper Correctional Facility campus,” an ADOC spokeswoman said.

Workers at the adjacent Staton Correctional Facility told news media that they had taken 360 cots and several portable toilets to three areas of Draper. 



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