ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A visitation ban at all of Alaska’s correctional facilities because of the coronavirus pandemic should be loosened, officials from the Alaska Black Caucus said.
Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus, said to reporters on Thursday that the organization had reached out to state officials multiple times to request looser restrictions, but the meetings had been repeatedly canceled.
The Alaska Department of Corrections had halted all in-person visitations at prisons and jails last March, when the virus was first detected in the state.
State officials had said that they implemented the safety precautions to prevent an outbreak at the state’s crowded jails.
By fall and winter, the coronavirus had spread in many of the state’s correctional facilities. Goose Creek Correctional Center had nearly every prisoner contract the virus.
A total of more than 2,300 inmates had contracted the virus in the state by Tuesday, data from the corrections department said.
Alaska is one of 13 states that still have a complete visitation ban, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections could not be reached by phone by the Anchorage Daily News on Thursday and did not respond to an email.
Richard Curtner, a former federal public defender for Alaska and co-chair of the Alaska Black Caucus’ Justice Committee, said it doesn’t make sense that visitation restrictions hadn’t been lifted when restrictions elsewhere had been loosened.
Anchorage Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced Thursday that the municipality would drop capacity restrictions on public businesses and loosen gathering size limits.