DOC to shutter Palmer Correctional Center

In a move that may come as no surprise to a cash-strapped state administration, the commissioner of DOC Tuesday announced the imminent shutdown  of Palmer Correctional Facility.

DOC Commissioner Dean Williams spent Tuesday morning meeting with Mat Su Borough officials and with Palmer mayor DeLena Johnson before going public with the announcement.

“We are giving ourselves four to five months to accomplish the entire closure and re-purpose of the facility. We wanted to do that to make sure the transition is smooth and to give the staff ample opportunity to find other positions,” Williams said.

Palmer Correctional houses 176 minimum and 300 medium security inmates.

Williams says the closure will take place in two phases:
The minimum security inmates will be transferred to the Pt. MacKenzie prison farm starting this summer. Thirteen staff members will be transferred to the farm with them.

Medium security inmates will be re-housed in other facilities, such as Goose Creek Correctional at Point MacKenzie or Wildwood Correctional in Kenai,
starting in November

Williams says closing Palmer Correctional will save the state thirty jobs, however, he expects most of the corrections officers at Palmer Corrections to be transferred to other jobs.

“Actually before long we are we are going to start hiring for a pre-trial unit, too, another section in the department. So all those factors taken into account, we believe, a best case scenario is we won’t lose any actual people. Most other staff will find other locations to work. That;s the good news. The down side, we realize, is the disruption of people’s lives and the locations they are working at. That’s the hard reality of it. ”

Twelve corrections officers will go to other DOC facilities.

Brad Wilson, with the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, says he’s withholding comment until he learns more about the plan.

DOC estimates the closure will save the department $5.6 million. Palmer Correctional Centers’ budget is $10.6million  a year. The $5 million  remaining will be reallocated to other facilities to increase staffing levels to recommendations.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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