- Associated Press - Saturday, May 20, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama is waiting for a federal judge’s ruling in a class-action lawsuit over inmate mental health care, a decision that could determine if there’s a special session on prison issues, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Friday.

Ivey told reporters that she will not rule out a special session at some point on state prisons, but said she first wants to see what U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson orders the state to do.

“Calling a special session may very well be an option because we’ve got to meet the needs of the state and we’ve got to meet the needs of what the judge outlines,” Ivey said. “We’ll wait and see what the judge rules.”

State prisons have come under criticism for crowding, violence and the level of health care provided to inmates. Thompson is expected to rule in a lawsuit filed by inmates claiming that Alabama has failed to identify, protect and treat mentally ill prisoners, leading to suicides and complications from untreated conditions that spiral out of control. The Department of Corrections has disputed the claims.

Alabama lawmakers did not approve a prison construction plan in the legislative session that ended Friday.

The proposal would have built four new mega-prisons but was bogged down as lawmakers raised concerns about the price tag of construction, who would get the contracts and the loss of jobs when existing prisons close.

Ivey said she was disappointed that the bill did not win approval.

“I was just optimistic that we could get a prison bill passed to demonstrate to the court that this state is dead serious - pardon the pun - but dead serious about making a difference to improve our prison structure,” Ivey said.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he believed the need for a special session “will be determined on the judge’s ruling.”

“I’m sure there will be a timeline in there for us. It just depends on that,” McCutcheon said.

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