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The Alabama Capitol in July 2020. Photo: Julie Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Friday signed several prison infrastructure bills that will be paid in part with the state's American Rescue Plan funds, according to AL.com.

Why it matters: State Democrats have criticized the move as a misuse of funds meant to help states recover from the coronavirus pandemic, but the Biden administration has given states broad discretion with how they choose to use the relief money.

  • The administration has encouraged states to use the funds to offset revenue losses to protect vital public services and to address a summer rise in violent crime, according to CNN.

Alabama will use $400 million of its American Rescue Plan funds to help pay for a $1.3 billion effort to build and renovate prisons across the state.

  • State Republicans have said the plan is crucial to reverse years of inattention and degradation and improve conditions for inmates.
  • The plan includes the construction of two 4,000-bed men’s prisons that will replace others that are outdated and beyond repair.

What they're saying: Ivey called the bills a "pivotal moment for the trajectory of our state's criminal justice system," according to CNN.

The big picture: The Department of Justice sued the state in December 2020 for failing to protect its prisoners from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of other inmates and staff members.

  • Ivey also signed legislation that requires all inmates to finish their sentences under supervised releases to help reduce overcrowding in the state's prison system.

Go deeper: Justice Department investigating conditions in Georgia state prisons

Go deeper

New York City to transfer 230 women and trans inmates out of Rikers Island jail

Demonstrators call for the closing of the Rikers Island prison as they protest outside the City Hall in New York, on Sept. 22. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

More than 200 women and transgender inmates will be transferred from New York City's Rikers Island jail complex and to state facilities, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: Rikers for years has been plagued by neglect and dysfunction, which has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Wednesday's announcement comes amid growing calls by activists and human rights groups to close the facility.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.