Legislation would make Alaska safe and invest resources locally
ANCHORAGE – State lawmakers are pushing back against the Dunleavy Administration’s effort to send Alaska inmates to private prisons in the Lower 48.
New legislation sponsored by Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) would remove the ability of the Department of Corrections commissioner to incarcerate prisoners in out-of-state facilities, unless the move is needed for medical reasons or to place a prisoner closer to family. Transfer for trial or extradition would still be allowed.
This proposal is necessary because, even after the House Finance Committee did everything in its power to direct funding toward in-state facilities, the governor refused to open up existing facilities here and moved forward with an effort to ship inmates out-of-state.
“We need to make Alaska safe, and that won’t happen by cutting corners. The state spent millions of dollars to construct the Palmer Correctional Center, but now the facility sits empty even after lawmakers set aside funding and directed DOC to get the prison up and running again,” said Representative Fields, a co-chair of the House State Affairs Committee.
“We should employ Alaskans to make our state safe instead of throwing away money on an effort that is unlikely to save money in the long run,” added Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“Prisoners sent out of state to serve their sentences will return home to Alaska,” said another co-sponsor, Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “We learned from the state’s past decision to house prisoners in the Lower 48 that they return all too often as hardened criminals, something that has contributed to our state’s prolific struggle with violent crime.”
Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) also joined Representative Fields, Drummond, and Ortiz as a sponsor of the new bill.
DOC is currently seeking bids from out-of-state companies to house between 250 and 500 prisoners, a move that is unlikely to save a significant amount of money and carries a significant risk of unintended consequences. If the new legislation becomes law, the contract would be invalidated.
Austin Baird
Communications Director, Alaska House Majority
(907) 465-6791