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Inside the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

Details: State lawmakers began a special legislative session Monday on the $1.3 billion construction plan.

  • The proposed plan seeks to build three new prisons, including a women's facility, and renovate others.
  • The new prisons would also have increased space for medical and mental health services.

Republican leaders expressed confidence in appropriating the funds, saying that the American Rescue Plan says states can use the relief dollars to "replace revenue lost during the pandemic to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs," per AP.

The big picture: The Justice Department sued the state last year over violence inside its prisons, per the Associated Press, which critics say repairing and expanding the prison system won't address.

  • The proposed legislation includes policy changes to sentencing and release standards that AP reports would allow up to 700 inmates to apply for reduced sentences.

What they're saying: “We can’t expect to house people, inmates, in conditions that are deteriorating and unhealthy. We’ve got to fix the problems. The prisons are falling in," state Sen. Greg Albritton (R) said Monday.

  • "Directing funding meant to protect our citizens from a pandemic to fuel mass incarceration is, in direct contravention of the intended purposes of the ARP legislation," U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday.
  • Nadler argued that the move will cause particular harm to communities of color, who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and over-incarceration.
  • The letter calls on Yellen to "prevent the misuse of ARP funding by any state, including Alabama, that seeks to direct this financial assistance to the expansion of its prison system."

Go deeper

States, cities slow to spend federal COVID relief funds

Children attend a learning hub at the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center as they play in the park on July 23 in San Francisco. Photo: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Hundreds of mayors implored Congress earlier this year to take "immediate action" on a massive COVID-related relief package that included billions of dollars to invest into their communities. However, since receiving the initial funding in the spring, very little has been used, according to an analysis from the Associated Press.

The big picture: As of this summer, a majority of the states that benefited from the economic package had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities had spent about 8.5%, according to financial reports obtained by AP.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.

2 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.