Assembly chair Rivera wants to ban private prisons and shipping prisoners south


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.


  1. I’m 100% behind banning ALL private prisons. Whomever thought that mixing incarceration with profit would be a winning a deal? O_O

  2. Suzanne,
    You wrote:
    “…one member of the Anchorage Assembly doesn’t want the State to balance its budgets going forward with private prisons…”
    Private prisons have not been shown to show savings in the long term.
    “Prison privatization turns this function over to contractors with comparatively little accountability. That opens the door for both cost overruns and mistreating inmates…
    Cost-saving is the main rationale for private prisons. But beyond faith in the power of private ownership to increase efficiency, there isn’t much reason to think the approach has the intended effect.
    Competition is scarce, with three big companies — CoreCivic Inc. (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), GEO Group Inc. and Management and Training Corp. — controlling 96 percent of private-prison beds.”

  3. Felix is a little out of his lane as an Assembly member here. Sounds like he has his eye on higher office. He’s be a great yes-man for the unions. Cheers –

  4. It’s a common mistake to assume the public sector is more virtuous than the private. For every example of private malfeasance, we can find one or two examples of public dereliction. The “naturally” and “prefers” and “comparatively” statements likely don’t hold up to scrutiny as such broad characterizations.
    As mentioned, oversight is a key factor for achieving desire outcomes with public funds, in either case. Oversight is a big problem in the public sector, and can be harder to fix. I applaud the exploration of solutions that provide the best value – all things considered.

  5. I would like to ban feel good politicians such as this clown. Assembly chair? Good luck Anchorage taxpayers, you’re gonna need it.

  6. Having a Privately run Prison System enables the State to hold accountable an entity responsible for maintaining a proper system with the right checks and balances. With a Public Service Union in the mix they will always look out for themselves but not what is right for the prison system. Privately run institutions are more cost affective and provide a better result. Besides if the Mayor deemed a Civil Emergency because of funds why would keeping a prison system in the public versus private sector cost less? It would not. sorry you can not have it both ways.

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