The Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) announced three deaths within the last four days of Alaskans in custody at prison facilities across the state.
Joshua Keith Zimmerman, 33, had been at the Anchorage Correctional Complex for a month before his death on January 12. John Malcolm Groff, 82, died at Goose Creek Correctional Center on January 12. Daniel Eugene Rosendahl, 37, died at Spring Creek Correctional Center on January 15.
“The record number of deaths that have occurred in DOC custody over the past two years are horrific. DOC is starting the year off by showing its ongoing failure to keep people in its custody alive -- and at an alarming rate,” said Megan Edge, Prison Project Director for the ACLU of Alaska. “With the start of the legislative session yesterday, we are calling on the legislature to hold DOC accountable for its practices. Oversight is critical, and change is imperative. Without it, Alaskans are going to continue to die.”
In 2022, DOC broke its record for deaths with 22 Alaskans dying in custody at facilities across the state. In 2023, 13 people died in DOC custody. The department only reported ten of these deaths, failing to include deaths that resulted from medical emergencies that occurred in DOC custody.
In August, the ACLU of Alaska filed a wrongful death lawsuit against DOC on behalf of the family of James Rider, who died in custody in 2022. The family of Mark Cook, Jr. also filed a wrongful death suit against DOC for Cook’s death in April 2023.
The second session of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature commenced on Tuesday, January 16th in Juneau.