Today, the ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to the state Department of Corrections (DOC) expressing our profound concerns regarding critical levels of overcrowding in state institutions. As a result, we’re also seeking public records documenting prison population by facility and written documentation about plans to open the gutted former prison, the Palmer Correctional Center (PCC).
The Department of Corrections’ core responsibility is to provide safe, sanitary, and humane conditions for incarcerated people. Considering the makeup of Alaska’s incarcerated population – the mentally ill, elderly, youth, addicted, recovering, innocent, non-criminal holds, and disproportionality Alaska Native people – the ACLU has growing concerns about the impacts of overcrowding and the dislocation of vulnerable populations.
Overcrowding in state prisons was a well-discussed consequence of House Bill 49. As a solution, DOC officials testified and explained in fiscal notes of the bill that the Department would reopen the nearly abandoned PCC. Given Alaska’s troubled history sending inmates Outside, the aforementioned plan provided reassurance that DOC was prepared to deal with a spike in the prison population without resorting to the unsuccessful practices of the past. The legislature appropriated funding for the reopening of PCC as part of the state’s current budget.
Considering the collateral consequences of the decision to ship inmates out-of-state in past years, the well-documented issues with private prisons across the U.S., and the best practice to rehabilitate offenders in-state, DOC’s failure to implement the plan it was funded and authorized to carry out raises a number of questions.
Because of these concerns, the ACLU of Alaska is seeking the following public records:
- The daily count of inmates, disaggregated by institution and by prisoner status (sentenced or unsentenced) between Oct. 16, 2018 and Oct. 15, 2019, inclusive;
- Emails, memoranda and/or other documents related to the planned reopening of Palmer Correctional Center (PCC), from Dec. 5, 2018 to Oct. 15, 2019, inclusive; and
- Emails, memoranda and/or other documents related to the Department of Corrections’ decision that “the option to reopen PCC was not viable”, from Dec. 5, 2018 to Oct. 15, 2019, inclusive.
Given the urgency and compelling public interest in this issue, the ACLU of Alaska is seeking a response within 10 working days (Nov. 6, 2019) as standard with the Alaska Public Records Act. In addition, we are currently reviewing the 237-page Request for Proposal (RFP), issued Wednesday, seeking for-profit vendors of Outside prisons to ship Alaska inmates to.