Report: Seward prison held inmates naked for hours
The office of the Alaska Ombudsman released a report into a complaint at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward alleging that prisoners were ordered to remove clothing, were transported through the prison and placed in cells where they were left in the nude for up to 12 hours.
The complaint stems from an incident on August 16, 2013, when an inmate broke off a shower head in the Bravo Module of the institution, flooding the module.
Staffers told Ombudsman investigators that the other inmates in the module encouraged the inmate to resist officers and destroy the shower. The water was shut off in the shower and Department of Corrections staff were able to extract the inmate in question.
A short time later, the remaining 12 inmates in Bravo Mod were each removed from their cells, ordered to take off their clothes and a contraband search was conducted, the report states. Then, according to the Ombudsman, the naked inmates were attached to a cuff retainer restraint and moved to new cells in the Charlie Module.
The investigation revealed that after the inmates were placed in the new cells, they were left there naked for up to 12 hours and were not given a mattress or a blanket until the next day.
The Ombudsman investigation determined the actions by the staffers at Spring Creek were not in line with federal and state law, nor did they follow DOC policy. The DOC also failed to follow policies regarding discipline and inmate complaints related to this incident, the report stated.
The inmates from Bravo Mod had been engaged in a demonstration about 10 days before the incident that involved the destruction of another Mod at the prison. The Ombudsman investigation found that "the orders to strip the inmates, restrain them and then leave them naked in cells were meant to punish the inmates for the earlier demonstration, rather than to address an issue of facility or inmate security".
After inmates complained about the August 16 incident, Spring Creek assigned the investigation to the same lieutenant who gave the orders that night. DOC policy states investigations into inmate grievances be assigned to "an objective staff member that is not involved in the subject of the grievance".
The DOC did not dispute any of the Ombudsman's findings.
The Ombudsman recommended that the DOC review and revise its policies regarding the use of restraining devices and to update regulations regarding body cavity searches. Further, the Ombudsman recommended that the DOC adopt a new policy for recording staff interactions with inmates.
The DOC released the following statement Friday to KTVA:
The Department of Corrections’ Professional Conduct Unit has begun a thorough investigation into the allegations presented in the Ombudsman’s report. As stated in the Ombudsman report, DOC has already implemented some of the Ombudsman’s recommendations. We recognize there were additional recommendations made from the Ombudsman’s office and we’re working on implementing more changes based off of those recommendations, but DOC cannot immediately discuss those details.