A new report about the state’s Department of Corrections finds numerous problems that have contributed to dozens of recent deaths within Alaska’s prisons and jails. On Monday, Governor Bill Walker released the 20-page Administrative Review to the public, and announced a new head for DOC.
In a conference room crowded with dozens of public officials on the 17th floor of the Atwood Building, Walker called the report’s findings “disturbing.”
“Since I’ve been in office we’ve had 15 people die while incarcerated,” Walker said at the start of his remarks.
After a number of deaths that took place in DOC custody, the Administration asked for an outside review, which began in August. Investigators visited 13 correctional facilities, four halfway houses, a training facility, and the community jail in Kotzebue, interviewing 150 Corrections staffers, as well as 40 current and former prisoners.
Walker’s big news was that he had accepted the resignation of DOC Commissioner Ron Taylor–who is relatively new to the job, having been appointed in January of 2015. No evidence was offered,
either in remarks or the report, that
Taylor was at fault for specific problems identified within the Department. But Walker told the room he wants to see a change in leadership, and that implementing the report’s numerous recommendations would be the purview of DOC’s new leader.
“I don’t think it’s to the point where we want to lay blame,” said Walt Monegan, whom Walker appointed as interim DOC Commissioner. “What we want to do is learn what needs to be fixed and move forward.”