Don’t be misled! The core problem is not too few guards; it is that there are too many inmates who need not be locked up at all … i.e, addicts, the mentally ill, first offenders.
These unions love to blame assaults on staff on understaffing; many, in fact, are justifiable retaliation for horrendous abuse by guards!
Generally, one cannot believe a word uttered by the union. The head of the one here in Delaware, Geoff Klopp, lies like hell, often to cover up the abuses and wrongdoing by staff.
Pray that Alaska does NOT turn to private prisons, the worst disastrous change in the justice system in recent years, second only to the “war on drugs”.
While many guards are to be commended for the thankless job they do, there are more than a few “bad apples” who should be on the other side of the bars!
Excerpts from the Article:
The union representing Alaska correctional officers says the system is in “crisis” due to staffing shortages and that planned recruitment efforts are insufficient. Randy McLellan, the president of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, said that serious understaffing has created a dangerous environment for staff and inmates across Alaska’s correctional system.
McLellan is a staff sergeant at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, he says there have been roughly eight assaults against correctional officers at Hiland in the last few months. Problems with staffing are well-known to the department and nothing new.
“We are at minimum staffing levels,” said Nancy Dahlstrom, the corrections commissioner, before addressing allegations that the situation was dangerous for officers, “Any place could be unsafe.”
On Dec. 17, the department was down 90 officers. The staffing gap had gotten worse since late-October when Dahlstrom said there was an 84-officer shortage. Despite the staffing issues, Dahlstrom said correctional facilities across Alaska are safe. “Anytime we have an issue of short-staffing, we have challenges,” Dahlstrom said on Dec. 17. “I can tell you that every single institution is staffed appropriately, every institution is doing what needs to be done to keep everyone safe.” McLellan disputes that asking, “How can she say that when she’s down almost 100 officers?”
Although staffing problems exist across Alaska, McLellan says that it’s especially dire at Anchorage Correctional Complex and Spring Creek Correctional Center. McLellan says a “riotous situation” took place at Anchorage jail in recent weeks that very nearly got out of control. Dahlstrom says no formal complaints have been made by the facility’s superintendent.
In May, Spring Creek was put into lockdown when dozens of prisoners started a riot, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage. “I lose sleep thinking about my co-workers at Anchorage jail or Spring Creek, thinking anytime I’m going to get a call saying, ‘It happened, we had a riot, two officers are dead,’” McLellan said. Dahlstrom disputes that Spring Creek or Anchorage jail are particularly bad, saying that shortages exist in every Alaska facility. According to the correctional officer’s union, understaffing has led to overwork and burnout. Correctional officers work one week on, one week off. With staffing levels low, officers are being asked to work “mandatory overtime.”
He says the corrections department has lost 25 officers since the Dunleavy administration took office in late 2018. McLellan looks to recent recruitment campaigns by the Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department to bolster staff numbers as an example of what can be done successfully.
“Nationwide, there is a shortage of correctional officers,” Goode told the committee.
Overcrowding and understaffing have led DOC to consider sending inmates Outside. The department currently has a request for bids from out-of-state private prisons to house 250-500 Alaska inmates.
Dahlstrom would not confirm on Friday how many bids the department had received or when one might be approved. With the corrections system at roughly 98% capacity, the commissioner said in mid-December that she didn’t know if more inmates may need to be sent out-of-state. Dahlstrom explained that a tough-on-crime bill signed into law in July had seen a five percent rise in the prisoner population. The controversial policy of sending prisoners Outside is opposed by the ACOA.
McLellan told KTUU on Dec. 11 that it leads to worse outcomes for rehabilitation and that Alaska’s correctional officers are the best at doing their jobs. There is also potentially a local solution.
The Alaska Legislature appropriated $16.8 million to reopen Palmer Correctional Center but Dahlstrom said the department would need to hire an additional 70 staff to run the facility.
In the meantime, McLellan says some of those funds could be rerouted to help with recruitment. He believes that the Dunleavy administration is hell-bent on pushing forward with a private prison process. Dahlstrom says that’s absolutely false.
For the commissioner, she says she is greatly appreciative of corrections officers and said it is a tough profession that is often done invisibly. “They deserve our gratitude and thanks for the work that they do.”