Panel is no longer considering private operator for megaprison

Lisa Demer

JUNEAU -- A state legislator said Friday he's no longer looking into whether the new state megaprison being built in the Mat-Su could be run by a private company.

State Rep. Mike Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who chairs the House Finance panel for corrections, said there wasn't interest among his subcommittee members in studying the prospect further.

The Goose Creek Correctional Center is already under construction near Point Mackenzie and will be the biggest in Alaska with 1,536 beds. The state intends to lease it from the Mat-Su Borough, which sold $240 million in construction bonds for the project. It's expected to open in 2012.

Kelly last year asked the Department of Corrections to study whether the prison could be run privately. The department did a quick analysis that concluded a private operator could save the state roughly $6.5 million a year. Kelly said Friday the savings could have been much greater if a private company were in charge of building a facility it would then operate.

At a hearing earlier this week, Kelly asked corrections Deputy Commissioner Dwayne Peeples whether any jobs would be lost if the prison were run by a private company. Probably not, Peeples answered. But correctional officers remained concerned about jobs and safety.

"I had my say, I polled the committee, and we're moving on," Kelly said.

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