The mayor of Anchorage declared a state of civil emergency due to pending state budget cuts this past summer and prolonged special sessions of the Legislature as it tried to find agreement on the State’s operating budget.
Now, one member of the Anchorage Assembly doesn’t want the State to balance its budgets going forward with private prisons — not in Anchorage’s backyard, anyway.
On Tuesday’s Assembly agenda is a resolution authored by Felix Rivera that would ban private prisons in Anchorage. It’s more of a statement, not unlike the mayor’s civil emergency was this summer, because there’s no evidence that the State of Alaska plans to convert any of its in-state prisons to privately managed facilities. The Anchorage Correctional Complex (850 prisoners) and Hiland Mountain women’s prison (400 prisoners) are the two that are within the municipality that could qualify for privatization.
The Department of Corrections has explored sending some prisoners out of state, rather than build new prisons in Alaska to house the flood of criminals that are crowding Alaska’s criminal justice system. The department is focusing on prisoners with multiple life sentences, those who are unlikely to ever mix with civil society again. Shipping the worst prisoners out of state was done for many years and is still an option. Some of those out-of-state prisons may be privately run.
But Rivera, who chairs the Assembly, wants to make sure that that, in addition to no private prisons in Anchorage, no prisoners get sent out of state, either. His resolution states that treatment and reformation of prisoners requires humane care and that prisoners in private prisons would not be likely to receive such care.
His resolution also articulates opposition to shipping prisoners out of state, where the costs of their “three hots and a cot” can be contained.
Rivera, who is running for reelection for District 4, Seat G on the Assembly, says that any underlying profit motive naturally undercuts the ability to prove a degree of custody and care expected by Alaskans.
He also states that family and friends need to have contact with their family members who are incarcerated. Rivera states that privately run prisons lack adequate oversight and put inmates and staff at risk.
Further, his resolution states, Alaska has shown a preference for in-state facilities, as evidenced by the construction of the Goose Creek Correctional Center in 2012.
The Anchorage Assembly will have a chance to discuss the Rivera resolution at its Tuesday meeting, which begins at 5 pm with a business meeting in the Assembly Chambers of the Loussac Library.