Letter to Legislators re: transferring prisoners out of state

October 26, 2019

Dear
Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon:

As a non-partisan, policy-focused non-profit organization, Alaska Common Ground asks the Legislature to find common ground to keep Alaska’s prisoners within Alaska and prevent the use of private, for-profit, out-of-state prisons by the Department of Corrections.

This
request is based on Alaska Common Ground’s long-standing support for therapeutic
justice, i.e. treating underlying causes of criminal behavior such as substance
abuse disorders, mental health issues, and lack of positive community support. We held public forums on the
subject, listened to a variety of well-qualified experts, and concluded that
therapeutic justice is the best way to close the revolving door in and out of
prison.

There
are several reasons why out-of-state, private prisons are not effective in reducing recidivism.
Sending Alaskan prisoners to distant, out-of-state facilities cuts them off from
all community and family support.  In
addition, private prisons do not have a good record treating the root causes of
criminal behavior. They are profit- motivated and their profit is affected by
the number of individuals incarcerated. There is a built-in conflict between
operating for profit and reducing the number of people incarcerated or
returning to incarceration. In the state’s previous experience, prisoners sent
to private out-of-state prisons often returned as hardened criminals with
connections to criminal gangs.

Ninety-five
percent of all prisoners are eventually released. Since most who return to
prison do so because of a new crime, it is greatly in the interest of public
safety to reduce recidivism.

We
support the Legislature’s appropriation to reopen the Palmer Correctional
Center and house Alaskan prisoners within Alaska. We urge you to require the Department
of Corrections to comply with legislative funding directives and reject
Department of Corrections’ proposal to send prisoners to private, out-of-state
prisons.

Sincerely,

Dick
Mylius, Chair

On
behalf of the Alaska Common Ground Board of Directors

Cc:  Nancy Dahlstrom,
Commissioner, Alaska Department of Corrections