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Tuesday, June 25, 2019
HomePoliticsCorrections chief ends controversial ‘day pass’ program

Corrections chief ends controversial ‘day pass’ program

SHUTS DOWN ‘AMNESTY BOXES’ FOR CONTRABAND

Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom has put an end to Gov. Walker-era programs that allowed inmates to be checked out of prison for a day on passes, and gave them the right to secretly deposit contraband into drop boxes before their cells were searched. She also ended a program that allowed “super volunteers” unlimited access to prisons and prisoners at nearly any time of day or night.

The day-pass program had been quietly adopted by former Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams a year ago. It had several safety problems identified by critics, the most significant being that there was no mandatory victim advance notification. Even police were not notified when a prisoner was checked out, and if an officer by chance had done a computer search, he or she would have found that inmate listed as still behind bars, not walking in the community.

Dahlstrom says that she looked for records to find out how many inmates were checked out under the program, but couldn’t find any documentation. But when inmates left the prison in “day clothes,” they were not searched upon their return, under order of the prior commissioner.

 

Dahlstrom also ended the use of property drop boxes, into which prisoners were allowed to secretly drop their contraband. If prisoners learned that cell searches were being done, they could declare “amnesty,” and the corrections officers would have to take them and their contraband to the “amnesty box.” There, the corrections officer would be required to turn his or her back, while the prisoner got rid of drugs, weapons, or other illegal items.

The amnesty box forced officers to ignore the infractions they knew were going on, and promoted smuggling in the prisons. Dahlstrom said there is evidently no written policy on the use of the boxes, but she’s ended the practice out of an abundance of caution and to support the corrections officers as they try to reduce crime inside the facilities.

Dahlstrom also ended a program that allowed some volunteers unlimited access to prisons, and this included women volunteers who had complete access to men’s prisons and men volunteers with unfettered access to women’s prisons.

In one instance, a woman volunteer had access to the prison where her husband was incarcerated. Such access can be disruptive to maintaining order in the facilities. Unlike volunteers from the faith-based programs, who are carefully vetted, the “super volunteers” required little screening.

“I fully support the governor’s mission to make Alaska much safer and protect our citizens, and it’s not right for the public’s money to pay for programs that cause citizens to feel unsafe,” Dahlstrom said. “I take that very seriously. We need to restore the people’s trust in government. I am continuing to review every single policy there is, and I anticipate other changes.”

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Wow, I had no idea such nutty policies were in place. We really dodged a bullet with that check an inmate out for a day insanity!

  • I’m a chaplain at Hiland Mountain Corrections … wow! Had no clue this was going on. Eye opener for sure!

  • This is staggering!!!! Did Governor Walker learn nothing from the Willie Horton ad??? Seems like these programs where trying to make an incident like that happen all over again in Alaska. I wonder if a crime was committed by a prisoner on a days-long furlough that the ADN never reported on. I can tell you some stories that ADN reported on. It reported on Kit Lee Karjala who was a defense attorney who smuggled heroin to her clients in jail. If an attorney is willing to go to those lengths to get contraband to prisoners I am sure some random “volunteer” may do the same thing. It reported on some criminals who intentionally committed a crime and then intentionally let the police catch them so that they would be brought to jail with hidden heroin. I have heard criticism in the ADN’s editorial page that Dahlstrom has had no career experience in law enforcement or corrections and was an inappropriate appointment to the position of Corrections Commissioner. She, afterall, was a legislator in her former employment, not a prison guard. Despite he lack of real world experience for her new employment, I guess it is a relief that Dean Williams, who did have career experience in corrections is no longer the commissioner. Despite all of his real world experience he practiced his former job with unconscionable recklessness and neglect all while taking taxpayer funded vacations to Sweden to see their prisons. I just wish I had known about all this information sooner before I voted in the election!!!!!!!!!!

  • Those policies were ludicrous! It looks like we have the right person in this position! Grateful and look forward to more changes to keep our community safe.

  • “I am continuing to review every single policy there is, and I anticipate other changes.”

    One of the main reasons Dunleavey won the election was public safety and the out of control crime rates.
    His pick of Dahlstrom and her swift actions to correct debacles like this, is proof that he is the right person for governor.

    Now let’s move on to making it much harder for criminals to make bail and be out committing more crimes while waiting for their trial.
    As a news junky, I have noticed that almost all of the stories of criminals being arrested include the fact that they were out on bail or supervised release while committing the crime(s) they are being arrested for, or had several outstanding warrants.