ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Lawmakers and others familiar with Alaska’s prison system have expressed concerns that a plan to transfer inmates to other states could have negative repercussions for the prisoners and the community.
Some officials believe an Alaska Department of Corrections plan to send inmates to prisons in the Lower 48 states could transform them into hardened criminals in a process that has been called “criminal college,” The Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.
Details of the corrections department plan are expected to be revealed next week when the state begins soliciting proposals.
Officials cited past data indicating most inmates transferred to prison in other states returned to Alaska and committed new crimes upon their release.
“They’ve come back hardened criminals. We know that because that’s happened every single time,” said Democratic Sen. Scott Kawasaki, a member of the subcommittee overseeing the prison budget.
The state constructed the Goose Creek Correctional Center in part to reduce the need to transfer inmates for incarceration in other states, officials said.
The state’s prisons have reached “maximum prisoner overload” and the corrections department will use “temperance” when deciding who to send out of state, said Republican Rep. George Rauscher.
Earlier this year, federal prosecutors indicted members of a white supremacist gang that arrived in the state in 2010 when Alaska inmates returned from prisons outside the state.
Sid Atwood, the spouse of former Democratic Rep. Sharon Cissna, is a former member of the state’s advisory board on alcoholism and drug abuse who also volunteers at prisons. Sending inmates to different states denies family contact and encourages them to seek other connections such as a gang, he said.
“The fact that you can’t go and visit your loved one who made a mistake is one of the reasons why that person learns more about supposedly how to do it better next time, when they get out,” Atwood said.
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com