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Alaska DOC is reopening attorney-client visitation to all fully vaccinated inmates

Alaska's News Source
Alaska's News Source(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 7:12 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Corrections says attorney-client visitation can resume to all inmates who have been fully vaccinated starting Wednesday at all DOC institutions statewide.

“We recognize how important it is for inmates to be able to connect with not only their attorneys but also friends and family,” said Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom in a press release.

The move comes after institutional activities and outside access to DOC facilities across the state were suspended in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Alaska Black Caucus calls for DOC to resume in-person visitation

“Our reopening plan gradually restores outside access to institutions as well as internal activities such as education and rehabilitation programs, chaplaincy services, and slowly expands social bubbles to allow for mixed recreation and meals among inmates,” said Dahlstrom. “We are pleased to, once again, make available in-person attorney access to their clients. We look forward to expanding the opportunity for visitation to loved ones in the near future.”

In order for attorney-client visitation to take place, all requirements listed below must be met:

  • The inmate must be fully vaccinated.
  • Attorneys will be subject to a COVID-19 entry point screening, including temperature readings.
  • Face masks covering the nose and mouth are required at all times while inside the institution.
  • Appointments are required.
  • No physical contact is allowed at any time during visitation.

In addition to the above requirements, DOC writes social distancing will be enforced and plexiglass dividers will be placed in visitation rooms and enhanced cleaning will occur after each use.

Representatives of the Alaska Black Caucus reacted to the new policy during interviews on Tuesday, saying it is a step in the right direction, but they still have concerns. They cited the requirement that clients be fully vaccinated.

“What’s my concern now is, how many people have been vaccinated? How many have turned down the vaccination for whatever reason?” said Rich Curtner, an attorney and the co-chair of the Alaska Black Caucus Justice Committee.

According to the DOC’s website Tuesday, 327 people in DOC custody have been fully vaccinated, representing roughly 7% of the prison population, which the DOC said is just over 4,800 people. Meanwhile, 1,610 people had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Celeste Hodge Growden, president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, noted that there can be distrust between the prison population and the system, and said she’d like to know more about how the DOC’s internal messaging and education efforts regarding the vaccine.

“If they don’t want to get vaccinated, why? Why not? I’d like to find out why. Is it because they don’t have someone that looks like them, messaging, the importance of getting vaccinated?” she questioned. “And if that’s the case, then we need to do that, we need to bring in people so that they can relate to the messages about the importance of the being vaccinated and get more people vaccinated.”

A DOC spokesperson responded to a request for an interview by suggesting Alaska’s News Source email questions. An emailed inquiry had not received a response Tuesday evening.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more information from interviews with the Alaska Black Caucus and the DOC website about vaccinations.

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