APD: 85 inmates have walked away from Anchorage halfway houses this year
The Department of Corrections says just about every day, an inmate walks away from a halfway house in Alaska.
The Anchorage Police Department said it’s happening so much, it’s a public safety issue. APD spokesperson Renee Oistad said it’s happened 86 times in Anchorage since the beginning of the year.
Bryce McCarter, 23, who left Cordova Center this week, is the latest, but APD and the DOC said they know he won’t be the last.
“The main reason why they’re put in a halfway house is because there’s not enough room to put every person in our institutions. We’d be crowded,” said DOC spokesman Corey Allen-Young. “And also, it’s cheaper. And also, it helps transition them back to society.”
But he said people who go into a halfway houses aren’t always transitioning back into society. In Alaska, about 20 percent of them are waiting for trial or sentencing.
Allen-Young said there’s certain criteria they have to meet to get into a halfway house, and the decision is made on a case-by-case basis.
“You can’t be an arsonist, you can’t be a sex offender, and you can’t have any violent assaults,” he explained.
But you can have a previous escape charge. Oistad said while they’ve taken reports for 86 walkaways, they’ve only had to get arrest warrants for 85 people. One inmate walked away from the Cordova Center twice this year.
“Once in February, and again in April, and so obviously there’s a problem with that,” Oistad said.
Allen-Young said the penalty for walking away varies from case to case, but once caught, an escapee goes back to a hard bed in an institution, and time is added to their sentence.
“The majority of the individuals that are in halfway houses that are walkaways are walking out because of some drug-related occurrence,” he noted. “So they’re either trying to get drugs, involved with drugs, or took some drugs and don’t want it to show on a test.”
Whatever the cause, the struggle is finding a clear solution.
“I do know that’s something that we do take a look at,” Allen-Young said. “All policies are being looked at in terms of the walkaways to try to avoid that.”
At the end of the day, whether the state or the Municipality of Anchorage have to use resources on walkaway cases, Alaskans pick up the bill. The DOC won’t comment on Senate Bill 91, because it hasn’t been signed into law yet. But if it is, it would focus the state’s money more on re-entry programs, like halfway houses, and shorten sentences for non-violent offenders. Oistad said APD worries that could make the walkaway problem even worse.
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