FAIRBANKS – Alaska’s correctional officers and people who are incarcerated are among the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, in part due to the difficulties in implementing effective social distancing policies.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) has implemented a series of preventive steps to avoid a large outbreak, but the prospect of rapid spread through a correctional facility remains a major public health concern. Restrictions also raise questions about access to legal representation, family visitation, and preparedness to test the prison population and isolate sick people if necessary.
Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) earlier this week sent a series of questions to DOC Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom, including:
- Are all correctional officers and staff receiving COVID-19 tests, even if they are asymptomatic?
- Does everyone receive personal protective equipment including masks?
- What are the current visitation opportunities for inmates to interact with friends, family, and attorneys?
- Is there a plan to resume normal visitation with health and safety precautions?
- Does every facility have an adequate number of test kits?
“The Department of Corrections has taken significant steps to protect the health of correctional officers, staff, and the prison population,” Representative Wool said. “At the same time, Alaskans need consistent updates on the status of testing, facility access, and policies aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of our jails. I thank the commissioner for her work and encourage the timely release of answers to the question I pose in my letter.”