Alaska's Department of Corrections is a month behind its own schedule in a controversial plan to ship Alaskans serving prison sentences to private prisons in the Lower 48. 

Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom announced the request for proposal in October, citing a growing prison population resulting from the passage of House Bill 49, which repealed and replaced the controversial Senate Bill 91, as well as dangerously low staffing levels.

The DOC's schedule for the process included a target date of Dec. 9 for issuing a notice of intent to award a contract and plans to enter into a contract on Dec. 20. Inmates were to start being transferred in early 2020. 

During a public meeting on Dec. 12, DOC Deputy Commissioner and Legislative Liaison Kelly Goode told lawmakers the department was still in the procurement process. 

In an email, Wednesday, a DOC spokesperson wrote, "DOC has not issued a Notice of Intent to Award at this time. The Department is still in the procurement process." 

The DOC did not answer questions regarding the cause of the delay, or provide an updated timeline. 

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration has come under fire for the plan to house Alaska inmates in private prisons Outside.

The Alaska Correctional Officers Association has been a vocal opponent, warning of negative consequences for the state, including the possibility of increased crime, recidivism and gang violence.  

Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, has said he will introduce a bill that would halt the practice of housing Alaska prisoners out of state.

"It is puzzling that the Dunleavy administration seems so fixated on shipping prisoners out of state when overwhelmingly, Alaskans are opposed to it, correctional officers are opposed to it, families are opposed to it, the public safety community is opposed to it," Fields said in a previous interview. "Why the administration is fixated on it, I don't know. If the administration starts shipping prisoners out of state, and subsequently, legislation passes which becomes law, then it would stop that process."  

Dahlstrom has pointed to an understaffed and overpopulated corrections system. She said reopening the shuttered Palmer Correctional Center — the plan preferred by lawmakers — is not a viable option when the department is already down dozens of corrections officers and would require an additional 70 at PCC. 

Without a contract awarded and as lawmakers are headed back to Juneau this month, it's unclear when, if ever, inmates will be leaving Alaska.

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