The Alaska Department of Corrections has been implementing various policy changes in response to the threat of Covid-19. To date the Department of Corrections states there are no positive cases of Covid-19 within the Alaska prison system, but we know it is just a matter of time before someone becomes infected.
Here is a link to the departments most current safety measures to protect both staff and residents https://doc.alaska.gov/covid-19.
Prison facilities are not designed in a way that is conducive to any of the suggested precautions most Americans are being asked to perform in order to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Social distancing is virtually impossible, nearly all cleaning supplies, including hand sanitizer are impermissible to the incarcerated population due to alcohol content. Prison facilities are virtually a breeding ground for germs and the spread of disease. There is little that can be done to protect staff or residents from spreading Covid-19 amongst one another once the virus has been introduced to the environment.
We are asking that the Department of Corrections Administration work in conjunction with the necessary agencies to look at options for reducing the incarcerated population in a manner that promotes safety for the Community as well as those vulnerable individuals most at risk within the facilities. We ask that they utilize compassionate release for the elder population and consider early release for those near the end of their sentencing and/or parole date.
We also ask that members of the legislature work diligently in the weeks to come on the issues of sentencing reform and restructure that would reduce the Alaska prison population as well as reducing the rate of recidivism.
The former practice of retribution over rehabilitation has not made the communities safer, nor has it promoted healing for those victimized by crime. It has however created an unsustainable financial burden on the state.
Restorative Justice programming and practices have produced positive results and should be a basis for the creation of an improved institutional environment, one based on true rehabilitation and reentry programs. Such an environment would be beneficial to both staff and resident as well as the communities that will one day house these returning citizens.
If anything positive comes from this viral threat, let it be the restructure and improvement of the criminal justice system in a way that would positively serve ALL.