Corrections commissioner cancels prison’s Father’s Day event

Alaska’s Corrections commissioner has canceled an upcoming Father’s Day event at Goose Creek Correctional Center near Wasilla a couple days before it was set to take place, due to concerns about contraband and safety, the department says.

This is the first time the department has canceled a visitor event at a prison since Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom was appointed in December, a Corrections spokesperson said.

The cancellation has angered inmates’ families, who say the rare events are important for inmates’ rehabilitation.

“You know we have been excited about this and planning it for months now,” said Christiane Allison, the wife of an inmate at Goose Creek. “His father is going to be going, or was going to be going, to spend the day with him, and it’s just, it kind of feels like being kicked when you’re down.”

According to the Department of Corrections, Commissioner Dahlstrom called off the event due to recent misconduct at a different visitor event at Goose Creek. Corrections spokesperson Sarah Gallagher said visitors brought contraband into the prison during a cultural festival June 7.

“Special events like these are a privilege, and will come second to ensuring the safety and security of our institutions,” Gallagher wrote in an email.

Commissioner Dahlstrom has made combating contraband in correctional facilities a top priority and the department is looking to improve its procedures in that effort, Gallagher said.

Gallager noted that normal visitation is ongoing at Goose Creek.

Allison, the Goose Creek inmate’s wife, said the picnic-like setting of the half-day-long Fathers Day event is highly anticipated and very different from a one-hour visitation inside prison walls.

Allison said she was devastated to hear the event was canceled and said Corrections staff have managed to keep it safe and secure in the past, so it doesn’t make sense to her to cancel it now.

“The one thing that has been proven to reduce recidivism and increase somebody’s odds of success reintegrating into the community is family connection, staying in contact with family members. And this kind of action is directly opposed to that success,” she said.

Gallagher, with Corrections, said officials agree that inmates’ connections to family members are important for rehabilitation. But, she said, in canceling the Fathers Day event at Goose Creek, the department was considering the safety and security of inmates and staff.

Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts.

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