Alaska Corrections reports its 16th death of the year

Goose Creek Prison. Photo by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA - Anchorage.
Goose Creek Correctional Center. (Ellen Lockyer/KSKA)

The Alaska Department of Corrections says a 69-year-old man died in its custody on Sunday at Goose Creek Correctional Center in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. 

Paul Allen Harris is the 16th person to die this year in the department’s custody, likely a 20-year high for deaths in a calendar year. The department does not suspect foul play and describes Harris’s death as “expected.” 

The department says it can’t release much information about this death or others due to health privacy, security and confidentiality policies. 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy was asked to address the high number of prison deaths on Saturday during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. He responded with a version of the department’s standard messaging. 

“We’re committed to taking care of the people in our care,” he said. “Once again, each death is going to be scrutinized very carefully. We’re always looking to improve what we can do in corrections and across government. But we always have folks, unfortunately, that pass away in our care in corrections. We always have.”   

Alaska State Troopers investigate the deaths and the State Medical Examiner determines a cause of death. Dunleavy said these investigations will likely show that health issues and suicides are driving the deaths. 

The administration has not responded to a request from the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska for an independent investigation. 

Harris was serving the seventh year of his sentence after a conviction on sexual abuse of a minor charges.

RELATED: Families, activists question why so many people in Alaska’s jails and prisons have died this year

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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