A QUIETLY IMPLEMENTED PROGRAM ALLOWS PRISONERS OUT FOR A DAY
That guy next to you in line at the coffee shop?
He could be an inmate out of prison on a day pass.
The Department of Corrections has implemented a revised policy that allows qualified “super-volunteers” to check inmates out of prison for 12-hour excursions. It’s a policy that few Alaskans know about, but it’s been in place since December.
The day pass policy was signed by Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams over a year ago, and quietly implemented in December.
Volunteers called Qualified Community Representatives can take prisoners of the same gender into the community for any number of reasons, subject to the superintendent’s approval.
Any volunteer who has been granted VIP status, or who has been approved by the prison superintendent, and who passes a DOC volunteer background check, may come onto prison grounds at just about any time of day or night and check out a prisoner with these conditions:
- They may enter institutions outside of normal visitation hours, without direct supervision, and with flexible scheduling, as needed to provide “in-reach services to prisoners.”
- They may access pre-determined areas of institutions without escort
- They may meet with prisoners, individually and in groups, without direct supervision
- They may carry and use institutional radios to communicate with staff and carry out in-reach duties and
- Any other action required to carry out the VIP mission that is approved by the Superintendent.
Not every prisoner qualifies. They must be in minimum custody, and have no convictions for acts of violence for a period of three years, nor history of escape or attempted escape from custody, nor fleeing from a community residential centers for two years preceding the day pass. Other than that, it’s at the discretion of the prison superintendent.
Rep. Cathy Tilton of District 12 first learned about the new policy from her constituents, who are expressing concern. Now, the policy is beginning to simmer on social media.
“This is a rising concern among my constituents. What’s even more concerning is it’s been implemented as a policy without the knowledge of the Legislature,” Tilton said.
Rep. Tilton wrote to the Department of Corrections about her concerns, and what she heard back was shocking:
The DOC won’t tell the public who is out on a day pass, because it wants to protect inmates’ safety and the public’s safety. If the information were to be made public, DOC says, it could create an opportunity for bringing contraband back inside the institution.
The victims of the inmate’s crimes might not know that the inmate is out on a pass. The victim notification depends upon whether the department was able to reach the victim. But there’s no mandatory language that the victim has a right to weigh in on the day pass approval.
According to an analysis by Amy Demboski, host of the Amy Demboski Show on KVNT, the new policy updates a policy that was put in place in December, and it loosens the rules even further:
- The policy removes the requirement that the inmate must have no C-level disciplinary finding in the previous 12 months.
- It lowers the threshold for who can check inmates out on a day pass.
- The policy states an inmate has to be free from convictions or disciplinary actions for acts of violence for the past three years. The previous threshold was five years.
- The policy deletes a requirement that there is no C-level or higher disciplinary finding for the past 12 months.
- The most significant change from the first Day Pass Policy to the current one is the removal of victim notification. The new policy doesn’t make it mandatory, but only signifies that an attempt must be made to notify the victim.
- There can be no history of escapes for a period of three years prior to the day pass. This also removes reference to having no history of disciplinary findings for three years.