SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Palmer Correctional Facility Closing

Closing Flawed Says Alaska Correctional Officers Association


July 28, 2016
Thursday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Answering the call to reduce the budget while still providing best transitional services for prisoners, the Alaska Department of Corrections announced Tuesday it is closing and repurposing the Palmer Correctional Center. Commissioner Dean Williams says “this plan will increase staffing and safety at other facilities.”

Commissioner Williams said “the plan to repurpose Palmer Correctional Center will bolster operations throughout the institutions by increasing safety while also lowering costs.”

jpg Palmer Correctional Facility Closing

Palmer Correctional Center
Photo courtesy Alaska Dept. of Corrections

The Commissioner also indicated in the press that he had been in “regular dialogue about these scenarios” with the Alaska Correctional Officers Association (ACOA). However, according to the ACOA, this is inaccurate. The Alaska Correctional Officers Association said they had heard rumors of potential closures and had requested to meet with the Commissioner to discuss these rumors. In two separate meetings on July 1 and July 7 the Commissioner clearly stated to ACOA that no decisions had been made on closing any institutions and that Correctional Officers and ACOA would be part of the vetting process.

ACOA stated in a news release they had tried to schedule more meetings to receive information, but was continuously put off. Then, Tuesday morning, without warning and without having been given the opportunity to provide input, ACOA read that Palmer Correctional Center would be closed. According to ACOA, the Commissioner stated that he wanted Officers and the public involved in the decision, then acted behind closed doors and without taking input on the closure. Now the Commissioner is asking for input from Officers on how to enact his unilateral decision said ACOA.

Correctional Officers, just like all State employees, deserve to know what is happening with their jobs stated ACOA in a news release. That is why the Legislature thoroughly vets any cuts before they are made to a Department. Tuesday’s announcement completely circumvents the Legislative and public process said ACOA.

Brad Wilson, ACOA Business Manager said, “Despite telling Officers that the decisions would be transparent, the Commissioner put off Correctional Officers for weeks saying that they were ‘not sure’ and ‘no decisions have been made’ and then surprised all Officers today by announcing that Palmer Correctional Center was closing.”

APOC stated that as far as they know, no cost analysis has been seen by the Legislature or the Public. This is a short-sighted decision which will have a long-lasting, negative cost impact on the Department of Corrections according to APOC.

According to the office of the Alaska Department of Corrections. the plan to close the facility will be conducted in phases: Palmer Correctional Center’s minimum-security side (176 hard beds and 25 staff members) will shut down first. Many of the minimum-security prisoners will be moved to Pt. Mackenzie Correctional Farm, which is more conducive to transitional living. Inmates will learn valuable life skills, working with their hands, producing useful products, engaging with community volunteers and creating a better, peer-level environment to transition back to civilian society. A fully operational Pt. Mackenzie Correctional Farm will not only help the Department produce its own food, but will also provide a venue for local farmers to sell their excess produce every season to DOC for processing.

Thirteen staff members from Palmer Correctional Center minimum will also be transferred to the Pt. Mackenzie Correctional Farm and the remaining 12 will go to various other facilities in Southcentral Alaska, according to a news release from the office of the Alaska Department of Corrections.

Further, the office of Corrections stated the plan to close the Palmer Correctional Center medium security side will take four to five months. Inmates will be dispersed between primarily Goose Creek Correctional Center and Wildwood Correctional Complex. Phase Two is not scheduled to be implemented until sometime in November.

Currently, Palmer Correctional Center’s annual budget is $10.6 million. The PCC closure is expected to save $5.6 million. The remaining $5 million will be reallocated to other facilities to bring staffing levels closer to recommended levels. Overtime costs at three of those cost the state $1.85 million last year alone. The closure and reassignment of staff will reduce overtime pay by about 50 percent.

Inmate placement will be based on the custody levels accommodated by the destination facility. While the Alaska Department of Corrections expects to reduce at least 30 positions, the actual loss of jobs should be minimal, given the time frame to transition.

The Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage Plant, which is operated by the Department of Natural Resources, will still be staffed by minimum-custody inmates according to the news release.

The Alaska Department of Corrections said it will work with the Mat-Su community to repurpose the Palmer Correctional Center facilities for future use.



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Corrections

Alaska Correctional Officers Association (ACOA)




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