Palmer Correctional Center on track to reopen next week
The prison has been shuttered since 2016
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The shuttered Palmer Correctional Center is on track to open on Monday after $16 million in renovations and repairs, according to the Alaska Department of Corrections.
Reopening the correctional center, which closed in 2016, was the alternative remedy to staffing shortages and overcrowding in Alaska’s prison system after the state backed off on a controversial plan to ship hundreds of Alaska prisoners to private prisons in the Lower 48. When the decision to change course was announced in January 2020, the department said it would take about 18 months to reopen the facility.
DOC Public Information Officer Betsy Holley said an interview could not be arranged Thursday, but did answer questions via email.
“According to DOT, we remain on track to meet the opening date of August 16, 2021,” she wrote. “DOC plans to move the first inmates to PCC in August, but due to security measures, we will not share transport details or dates.”
The correctional center will cost $15 million to run annually and has the capacity to house up to 514 minimum and medium security inmates, according to Holley. She said both sentenced and un-sentenced people awaiting trial will be sent there.
Putting the facility back into use is a move aimed at relieving overcrowding in the state’s prisons, but Megan Edge with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska said opening a new prison is a sign Alaska is moving in the wrong direction.
“We’re not finding a solution to the mass incarceration crisis by building more prisons and adding more beds,” she said. “That doesn’t solve the problem. We’re going to continue to outgrow our facilities if nothing changes. These are human warehouses where we have hundreds of people for an indefinite amount of time. That’s the problem.”
As of Thursday, the state’s corrections facilities are at 95.6% capacity, according to Holley.
Edge said while keeping incarcerated people here is better than sending them out of state to serve their sentences, Alaska needs to invest in rehabilitation and treatment services to help people exit the corrections system successfully and not return.
When asked what programming will be available at the Palmer facility, Holley wrote that it “will have substance abuse programming, sex offender treatment, mental health services, education, vocational programs and reentry services.”
The department did not grant an Alaska’s News Source request to tour the facility, citing ongoing work to finish renovations.
“While we are still on track to open PCC as planned, there is still a lot of work being done at the facility in order to make sure it is fully functional, operational and safe to transfer inmates as scheduled,” Holley said. “Our priority is always safety to our staff and inmates, and while we will certainly entertain a media tour in the future, right now, because of all the finishing touches being done, it is simply too problematic to allow additional visitors to the property.”
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