The state’s Palmer Correctional Facility is slated to close.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams announced the move Tuesday. It’s a money-saving measure called for by Gov. Bill Walker.
Williams met with Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials and city mayor DeLena Johnson before going public with the announcement.
“We are giving ourselves four to five months to accomplish the entire closure and repurpose of the facility,” Williams said. “We wanted to do that to make sure the transition is smooth and to give the staff ample opportunity to find other positions.”
The prison houses 176 minimum and 300 medium security inmates.
Williams said the closure will take place in two phases: The minimum security inmates will be transferred to the Pt. MacKenzie prison farm starting this summer. Thirteen staff members will be transferred to the farm with them.
Medium security inmates will be re-housed in other facilities, such as Goose Creek Correctional at Point MacKenzie or Wildwood Correctional in Kenai, starting in November.
“Actually before long we are we are going to start hiring for a pre-trial unit, too, another section in the department,” Williams said.
“So all those factors taken into account, we believe, a best case scenario is we won’t lose any actual people. Most other staff will find other locations to work. That’s the good news. The down side, we realize, is the disruption of people’s lives and the locations they are working at” he added.
Williams said closing Palmer Correctional will save the state 30 jobs, however, he expects most of the corrections officers at Palmer Corrections to be re-positioned in other jobs.
Twelve corrections officers will go to other DOC facilities.
Brad Wilson, with the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, said he’s withholding comment until he learns more about the plan.
DOC estimates the closure will save the department $5.6 million. Palmer Correctional Center’s budget is $10.6 million dollars a year. The $5 million remaining will be reallocated to other facilities to increase staffing levels to handle more inmates.