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Another collapsing bunk bed prompts broad inspections at the Anchorage jail

(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 7, 2020 at 7:44 PM AKST
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A collapsing bunk bed has injured a second inmate in an Anchorage jail.

Problems with the bunk beds were first revealed when an inmate, identified as E.M., was struck when an upper bunk collapsed as he slept on the lower bunk.

"He had a 300-pound cellmate that was on top of the bunk that came crashing down and landed on his temple as he was sleeping," the inmate's attorney, Mike Kramer, told KTUU in an interview October 16.

There are approximately 900 beds within the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Bunk beds installed on the west side of the complex, where the two bunks collapsed, are 37 years old, according to the Department of Corrections.

Image obtained by KTUU of a bunk bed that collapsed prompting the first lawsuit in October, injuring an inmate. Since then, a second bed has collapsed.

In October, KTUU asked for all bunk bed work requests dating back five years.

"The case is about an apparent systemic problem within that facility anyway to acknowledge that they have a problem with these bunk beds that are putting inmates in grave danger of serious injury or death, and they're not fixing it," Kramer told KTUU in October.

The Department of Corrections initially denied KTUU's records request, citing the pending lawsuit. KTUU successfully appealed. Records obtained by 2 Investigates show 14 repairs, most for loose mounting hardware like screws, bolts, and iron plates -- conditions consistent with what the inmates' attorney had described.

When we asked about more recent repair work, for November and December, the department gave us a one-page report titled "Upper Bunk Inspection" dated November 27.

The report shows four bunks needed immediate repair. Another 25 bunks -- more than double the amount of beds flagged for repair in the past five years -- "has slight movement but were still operational," according to the report.

Curious about what had prompted the inspections, KTUU asked the department if there had been more recent injuries associated with the bunk beds.

Sarah Gallagher, a public information officer for the Department of Corrections, confirmed by email that there had been an incident and that an inmate received what she described as a "minor injury."

KTUU has since learned a bunk collapsed November 26, one day before the November 27 inspections.

A second lawsuit filed January 2 against the department, again by Kramer, claims the second inmate, identified as "J.J.," required brain scans and head staples.

It's after the November 26 incident that the Department of Corrections conducted what it describes as "a review of all the upper bunks." Any bunks with issues were repaired, secured to the wall, and welded as needed.

The Department of Correction told KTUU that no maintenance records exist for bunk beds before 2016. It's only in recent years, Gallagher told KTUU that the bunks have required repairs.

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