(File)

(File)

ACLU: State prisons are overcrowded

Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai was over maximum capacity for more than 200 days.

Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai was over maximum capacity for more than 200 days between Oct. 1, 2018 and Oct. 15, 2019, according to a report released Nov. 14 by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the report, which was based on a state records request to the Alaska Department of Corrections, Wildwood was one of eight state correctional facilities found to be overcrowded during that time period, and one of three found to be overcapacity for more than 200 days. While the average days spent overcapacity among state facilities was 140 days, Wildwood was found to be over maximum capacity for 226 days. When a prison meets or exceeds maximum capacity, incarcerated people may sleep in cots or bunks in recreational areas and in solitary confinement.

In October, Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom announced plans to relocate Alaska inmates to private prisons in the Lower 48 because state prisons were operating at 97% of their maximum capacity. Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai/Soldotna, said he does not support sending inmates out of state, and probably never will.

“I don’t think I’ll ever find a comfort level with sending inmates out of state,” Knopp said. “They are our responsibility.”

Overcrowding conditions appear to be ongoing at Wildwood.

Between the Oct. 1-15, Wildwood Pretrial Facility met or exceeded its maximum capacity of 115 people on five days. In the same time period, Wildwood Correctional Center, a sentenced facility, operated above its maximum capacity every single day, the release said.

State records also show that between September 2018 and September 2019, there was a 20% increase in unsentenced individuals who were incarcerated without having been convicted of a crime.

“At this point, roughly half of Alaskans in our state’s prisons are unsentenced,” ACLU of Alaska Policy Director Triada Stampas said in the release. “The ugly truth of that is this: many of those individuals are already at a physical and socioeconomic disadvantage. Overcrowding in state prisons can be damaging to anyone’s health, safety, and rehabilitation, but especially so for those already preyed upon by systemic biases built into the criminal justice system.”

In the release, Stampas said overcrowding issues are not unique to Alaska. She said that since 1970, the U.S. prison population rose by 700% as a result of policy decisions, not crime. Solutions to overcrowding that have been successful in other places include increased use of electric monitoring, early release and alternatives to incarceration for those with substance abuse issues and mental health disabilities, Stampas said.

“Shipping inmates away, or building more prisons, doesn’t solve the problems, reduce victims, or save money,” Stampas said in the release. “It just creates more beds for a dysfunctional system to fill.”

ACLU Alaska has a list of criminal justice reforms they say would reduce Alaska’s prison population from 4,237 to 2,013, while also saving the state $337 million, according to its website. Proposed reforms include reducing the average time served between 40% and 60% for public order offenses, assault, drug offenses, theft, driving while under the influence, robbery, burglary, weapons offenses and fraud, according to the website.

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Wrangell Institute was one of many residential schools in Alaska dedicated to involuntarily teaching the Indigenous people of the state European ways of living, forcibly breaking them from their own Alaska Native cultures. (Courtesy photo / National Park Service)
Churches respond to revelations about residential schools

That acknowledgement is taking a number of forms, varying by institution.

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

A reader board sign on the Sterling Highway announces COVID-19 testing and vaccines at the South
No current COVID-19 patients at South Peninsula Hospital

Test rates, ER visits and admissions are dropping for Homer

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer’s first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital’s medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Feds issue vaccine mandate to health care workers; Dunleavy joins lawsuit against the rule

Rule by CMS applies to hospitals, rural health clinics, community mental health centers.

Tim Navarre, president of the Kenai Peninsula Foundation, stands in a bedroom at a cold weather shelter set to open next month on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Shelter prepares to open doors

Efforts to establish a cold weather shelter on the peninsula have been in the works for years.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

tease
Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Most Read