Staffing Shortages and Overcrowding
in State Prisons Could Create Unsafe Conditions, Report Finds
Department of Corrections
Called On To Remedy Deficiencies
June 04, 2010
A recent report by the Legislature's non-partisan Audit Division
finds that staffing shortages and overcrowding in state prisons
may be leading to an increase in assaults on correctional officers
and other prisoner misconduct.
The report was prepared at
the request of Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) after
correctional officers complained about unsafe staffing conditions
in Alaska's prisons.
The auditors examined staffing at four of the state's 12 prisons
(the Anchorage Correctional Complex, Fairbanks Correctional Center,
Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, and Anvil Mountain
Correctional Center in Nome).
They found that these four facilities alone were short 17 correctional
officers, with the greatest shortage being in Anchorage. A
consultant hired by the auditors through the American Correctional
Association also noted numerous issues with security post "efficiency
and effectiveness" that could require up to 47 additional
staff positions or modifications to facility design and operations.
"Staff shortages only worsen problems associated with overcrowding,
which has plagued Alaska's prison system for years," Senator
Wielechowski said today. "When you combine the two, it
can create the perfect storm, putting both prisoners and correctional
officers at risk."
The audit found that overcrowding in the four prisons examined
was commonplace. For example, at the Anchorage-East facility,
inmate populations exceeded capacity 99% of the time. At the
Fairbanks prison, capacity was exceeded 92% of the time.
"The Department of Corrections has had to double-bunk cells
and house inmates in gyms," Senator Wielechowski said.
"And unfortunately, at least in some facilities, we've seen
a rise in violent behavior."
The report found that at the Anchorage Correctional Complex,
there were 22 assaults on correctional officers between January
and September of 2009, compared to 14 assaults per year in 2007
"Correctional officers have also been required to put in
an excessive amount of overtime with severely limited opportunities
to take leave," Wielechowski said.
From January 2007 through April 2009, the auditors found that
the state paid an average of almost $2.8 million in overtime
costs for the four facilities they examined. In addition, in
May 2009, managers at the Anchorage prison limited personal leave
to one scheduled week per year, except in extraordinary circumstances.
"The last thing we need is to turn our prisons into powder
kegs," Wielechowski said. "The Department of Corrections
needs to look closely at the situation and come up with some
He noted that the opening of the Goose Creek Correctional Center
in the Point McKenzie area will provide some relief when it opens
in June 2012. It will provide beds for about 1,536 prisoners.
Alaska prisons now house about 3,400 inmates with an additional
1,000 inmates housed in facilities outside of Alaska.
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