Parole in Alaska affected by lack of treatment programs

Spring Creek Correctional Facility in Seward most affected, according to board member
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Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 10:57 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Parole Board revealed that a shortage of substance abuse treatment programs is affecting some parole requests that otherwise would likely be granted.

The board discussed the issue at its annual public meeting this week.

Board member Sarah Possenti from Fairbanks said there is an ongoing problem at one particular institution in Seward.

“We know that substance abuse treatment at Spring Creek [Correctional Center] has been a really big hole that we have out there that, you know, really needs to be filled. It’s just tough,” Possenti said. “I know [the Department of Corrections] has been trying to do a lot to get somebody, either a provider out there, or somebody who will come in and come out. It’s a location that they’re mostly having a hard time with.”

Possenti says there are workarounds for inmates, but granting parole to an individual who still suffers from alcohol or drug abuse is not good for that person or the community.

During public comment, Megan Edge, the Prison Project Director of the ACLU of Alaska, asked Possenti what happens to inmates due to be paroled if treatment isn’t available.

“To what extent does a parole board communicate with DOC when a program is required for them to be paroled? And the program is either not accessible at the institution that they’re housed at? Or any institution?” Edge asked. “And so, in other words, how does the board follow up when it’s required, or when its requirement is practically unable to be fulfilled?”

Possenti replied that there are workarounds in certain cases.

“If someone’s at a certain facility — say Spring Creek — and we know they’re not going to be able to get substance abuse treatment, given their release date, it’s not typical that will then require them to do that [get treatment],” Possenti said.

She said if there is more time before release, treatment might still be required.

“It may be that they are releasing in four years, and if they can get their custody level down at Spring Creek, they can be moved over to Wildwood [in Kenai] to do the treatment program,” Possenti said.

Possenti added that in some cases, those otherwise eligible for parole might not be released without completing a treatment program.

The parole board did not provide an estimate for when substance abuse treatment programs would be fully available throughout the prison system.

Board member Richard Larsen from Wasilla said the prison system estimates 85% of inmates suffer from alcohol or drug abuse problems.