The Department of Corrections announced Tuesday morning plans to shut down the Palmer Correction Center, and move its staff and inmates. In a release from DOC, the department said the decision was made in an effort to reduce the agency’s budget.

According to DOC, they plan to increase the staffing and safety at other facilities.

The Palmer Corrections Center will shut down in phases. First, the minimum-security side will close. DOC said that portion of the prison has 176 hard beds, plus 25 staff members. Many of the minimum-security inmates will be moved to Point MacKenzie Correctional Farm.

“Inmates will learn valuable life skills, working with their hands, producing useful products, engaging with community volunteers and creating a better, peer-level environment to transition back to civilian society,” DOC wrote.

Thirteen staff members will also move to Point MacKenzie, while 12 others will go to other prisons around Southcentral. The release did not specifically state when the move for minimum-security inmates is set to begin.

Medium-security inmates will move mostly between the Wildwood Correctional Complex, in Kenai, and Goose Creek Correctional Center in Point MacKenzie. The transition should take four to five months and is expected to be implemented in November.

The Palmer prison’s annual budget is $10.6 million, DOC said. Its closure is expected to save $5.6 million, with the leftover $5 million being reallocated to other DOC facilities.

DOC said moving staff should also help the state agency keep each prison’s staffing levels up to the recommended number. Employee overtime pay is also expected to decrease by 50 percent.

Thirty positions are expected to be cut, but DOC said “the actual loss of jobs should be minimal, given the time frame to transition.”

The agency also plans to work with Matanuska-Susitna communities to find ways to repurpose the prison.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the Alaska Correctional Officers Association (ACOA) expressed dissatisfaction — and even surprise — at the state’s decision. ACOA business manager, Brad Wilson issued the following statement:

“Despite telling Officers that the decisions would be transparent, the Commissioner put off Correctional Officers for weeks saying that they were ‘not sure’ and ‘no decisions have been made’ and then surprised all Officers today by announcing that Palmer Correctional Center was closing.”

The organization also called the DOC’s decision “short-sighted” and “counterproductive.”

“The closing of Palmer Correctional Center warrants additional consideration, and Correctional Officers, Legislators, and the Palmer community should be involved,” wrote Wilson.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mislabeled the Goose Creek Correctional Center as being located in Seward. It is located in Point MacKenzie. The Spring Creek Correctional Center is located in Seward. 

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