AK DOC Today

News, Events, and Activities in the Alaska Department of Corrections

Spring Creek helps rejuvenate Woodlawn Cemetery

Seward’s historic “Woodlawn Cemetery” is modest. On a small corner of an outlying neighborhood, it sits nestled among spruce, fern and moss. The simple, wooden crosses are surrounded by white, picket fences. The paint is peeling and the wood is rotting as Nature tries to reclaim it all. In another part of the country, the name “Woodlawn Cemetery” might conjure up an image of something expansive and grand. But this is Alaska, a land of nature’s extremes and the home to mere handfuls of non-native, early, settlers.

The cemetery is a portal to another time.

Interred there are veterans of the Spanish American War and those who “arrived by steamer.”  There are mothers, infants, lumberjacks, fishermen, railroad workers, prominent citizens, and ladies who “worked at home.”

The obituaries in the local papers were peppered with adverts for Stetson hats, for “cheap lots”, for Sears, Roebuck & Co., and for hotel rooms “out of the fire zone.” They ran headlines about WW I (“French Retake a Town”), and there were articles about scandalous local crime (“White Slave Dealer Caught…selling girls for immoral purposes.”).

So many died so young.

Little Anna Marie lived just 5 days.  The paper quoted the coroner: “undertimed child and inability to assimilate food.”

Some died in the line of duty. The year 1917 was a particularly bad one for Seward’s law enforcement.

Night Marshall, Grey Dority, was “shot through the heart…in the performance of duty and self-defense.” The obit described               police officer and Fire Chief Charles Wiley’s death as “homicidal by desperado.”

Some died of natural causes. Death by childbirth, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and heart exhaustion, appear again and again.

“Well known man-about-town passes away while sitting in a saloon chair.”

Some died of unnatural causes. In 1917, a barber died of “poisoning.” There were suicides and even a drug overdose.

And so many died in work accidents.

 “Fatally hurt by pile driver.” “A rock fell from the bluff and killed him.” “Accidental fracture of skull.”

And famously in 1919, Seward bid goodbye to “one-armed Sullivan,” a celebrated railroad worker who it was said could out-shovel any two-armed man. One-armed Sullivan literally lost his head to the train.

Woodlawn Cemetery has found its guardian angel in Marie Gage. Well known locally for her extensive charitable work, she is perhaps less well known as a retired corrections officer and sergeant at Spring Creek Correctional Center. Ms. Gage knowns how to combine those two personas to her best advantage. “Since 1999, prisoners from Spring Creek have worked on the restoration of the Woodlawn cemetery,” she explains. That year, they replaced the wooden crosses, which are again succumbing to time and to the elements. “This year, with the help of Superintendent Bill Lapinskas, the prisoners are making permanent grave markers.”

“I was approached last summer by Ms. Gage,” Bill Lapinskas explained. “She had used the prison industries program years ago to make the markers and those markers are now at a point that repair is not really an option. Anything short of replacement was just a band aid and would be pushing the problem down the road. After some conversation with the men in Voc-ed (the vocational part of the prison’s education department), it was decided that we would try our hand as casting our own headstones out of cement. After a few less than favorable results—and a lot of YouTube videos—we are creating some pretty nice pieces that should last a very long time. My hope is to create two or more replacements a month, as time and as resources  allow.” Donations are coming in from individuals and, just recently, Seward Resurrection Bay Lions donated 18 bags of Quickcrete.

Too bad that one-armed Sullivan isn’t here to lend a hand.

— By Iva Cooney, Institutional Parole Officer

From ADN: Rethinking Alaska’s only maximum-security prison

Last month, the Anchorage Daily News spent a day with Spring Creek Correctional Center superintendent Bill Lapinskas.

They discussed a lot — from ethics and morals to solitary confinement and mental health.

“Rather than menace them and just enforce rules every day, why aren’t we trying to invoke change? Real change,” (Lapinskas) said. “Not force it, but entice it and seduce it and get it out of these guys through meaningful conversation and decency.”

Read more: https://www.adn.com/features/alaska-news/crime-courts/2018/10/26/rethinking-spring-creek/?fbclid=IwAR3wktDeCKcQqykNwDVqIXIPYSI0uP1I5Lab0gvQ1moug40LqHYpTg0WcA8

Palmer pretrial officers assist Palmer police

Earlier this month, two Palmer Pretrial Enforcement Division (PED) officers went beyond their typical duties when they stopped to gas up their SUV. This stop led to the arrest of a man carrying drugs and stolen credit cards.

When one of the PED officers went inside the Mat-Su gas station to collect a receipt, he witnessed a man walk out of the store with several items of unpaid merchandise. The PED officers confronted the man, who admitted to carrying methamphetamine.

The pretrial officers detained the man until the Palmer Police Department (PPD) arrived. When PPD arrived, they asked PED to search the man. Our officers discovered that the man was also carrying heroin.

After the male suspect gave consent to have his vehicle searched — and at the request of AST and PPD – the pretrial officers performed the search. In addition to the shoplifted gas station merchandise, and the drugs, PED officers discovered a wallet with about 10 different credit cards with different names.

The suspect was taken into custody.

Listen: South African musician sings and inspires HMCC inmates

On May 10, 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated. Playing at the event was South African musician Vusi Mahlasela. Earlier this month, the musician traveled to Alaska and shared his music and message with men and women at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility (HMCC).

The Thursday afternoon performance kicked off his cross-country tour in the United States.

Thank you to the Anchorage Concert Association for bringing such an inspiring human being to the Last Frontier and to HMCC.

Hear more about the event in this piece from Alaska Public Media: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2018/10/19/ak-vusi-mahlasela-sings-for-hiland/?fbclid=IwAR2s1QST_PinYVWzKVtHohMgDxZBR0sYkZWD1apyOZP6j8SatDKMUY0OndA


DOC increases Valdez jail contract for sentenced EM supervision

From the Valdez Star: “Dean Williams, Alaska’s commissioner of the Dept. of Corrections, came to Valdez Thursday and signed an agreement with Valdez mayor Jeremy O’Neil that will allow low-level offenders to serve sentences via electronic monitoring rather than serving time in jail.

Williams said it is a big trajectory change for Valdez – and the Dept. of Corrections. Allowing lawbreakers to serve time at home gives local control over offenders rather than sending people to prison, which the commissioner said can be a university to teach criminal behavior.”

Read more, here: https://www.valdezstar.net/story/2018/10/10/law-enforcement/short-jail-sentences-now-eligible-for-monitoring-instead/2069.html?fbclid=IwAR0xAmYA_ZukveNyuVogq5Y-iNmET8jFgfqpEjMIyAr4ma2SCBzvGa9AwK4

DOC releases September drug report

Once drugs are discovered, they’re turned over to the department’s Professional Conduct Unit (PCU).

PCU builds cases and works with other law enforcement entities — like the FBI – Federal Bureau of InvestigationAlaska State Troopers (Official) and the Drug Enforcement Administration — to go after traffickers.

This work and collaboration is critical to building a safer Alaska.

DOC receives $1 million grant to enhance recidivism reduction efforts

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is pleased to announce that Alaska recently became one of three states awarded the federal Second Chance Grant. This funding will further enhance efforts to reduce the state’s steep recidivism rate and to cultivate stronger and safer communities statewide.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Assistance, allocates $1 million over the course of two years to Alaska’s correctional system. Utah and Delaware are also recipients.

“We are thrilled about the opportunities we now have to enhance reentry department-wide,” DOC Deputy Commissioner of Transitional Services Karen Cann said. “Reentry really begins the day an offender walks through the doors of one of our facilities. For the Department of Corrections to truly correct behavior, we must have well-trained staff, offer programming, teach job skills, and provide behavior health services. And when offenders are getting ready to release, we must have a system in place that connects reentrants to community resources capable of assisting in that often-challenging transition.”

DOC has been developing a strategic reentry plan with statewide community partners since 2017, when the department was awarded the $100,000 Second Chance Act Statewide Adult Recidivism Reduction Strategic Planning Program grant. This summer, the plan was submitted to DOJ for their consideration to allocate DOC the additional implementation funding. Alaska DOC accepted the Second Chance Grant on October 4, 2018.

As detailed in the strategic plan, funding will be used for training, programming, case planning tools, direct services, peer support in and out of our institutions, modifications to the Alaska Correctional Offender Management System, as well as to pay the wages of the required grant manager and research partner.

“This plan is really dependent on communication and coordination, not just within DOC but with our communities,” DOC Reentry Program Manager Morgen Jaco explained. “There needs to be communication with offenders about their needs and goals, between line staff and superintendents, and between probation officers and community partners. The goal is for every incarcerated person to have one case plan – disseminated out to all relevant parties, so everyone knows that person’s requirements, the programming they’re enrolled in, and the services they need.”

Alaska has a recidivism rate of 66.41 percent, with two-thirds of those individuals returning to custody within the first six months. The state defines recidivism as any return to custody within the first three years of release.

Lowering the re-offense rate by using evidence-based practices will have wide-reaching impacts that will improve public safety across the state.

Op-ed: Kindness for children with an incarcerated parent

From the Juneau Empire: “Lemon Creek Correctional Center recently implemented a program called New Chapter, to support loving communication between incarcerated parents and their children. Incarcerated parents can record a video of themselves reading a book, poem or letter to send to their child. Because of the size of Alaska, children may be located too far from their incarcerated parent to be able to visit in person.”

Read more: https://www.juneauempire.com/life/kindness-for-children-with-an-incarcerated-parent/