Inmate found dead at Seward maximum-security prison

Michelle Theriault Boots

An inmate at the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward was found dead early Sunday morning, the Alaska Department of Corrections said in a news release.

Guards were "notified of an unresponsive inmate in his cell" in the maximum-security prison's ''House One'' at 1:23 a.m., the release said.

The inmate was taken to a hospital in Seward, where he was pronounced dead. As of Sunday evening, his name had not yet been released pending notification of next-of-kin.

The DOC has not yet released a cause of death, but Sunday's news release noted an investigation by the Alaska State Troopers is in progress.

A DOC spokeswoman did not respond Sunday to questions about the death.

Built in 1988 and located across Resurrection Bay from the Kenai Peninsula community of Seward, Spring Creek Correctional Center is the state's only maximum-security prison. It houses up to 500 male inmates, most serving lengthy sentences.

Last August, a group of 14 inmates at Spring Creek trashed their cells, breaking toilets and sinks, in a bout of destructive behavior that took guards nine hours to quell. Prison officials stopped short of calling the event a "riot."

In December 2013, troopers reported an attack by 25-year-old Spring Creek inmate Jason Rak left another prisoner, Forrest Ahvakana, 48, in critical condition.

The inmate found dead on Sunday is the sixth to die in an Alaska correctional institution this year and the fifth since April.

On April 4, Davon Mosley, a 20-year-old California man with a history of mental illness, died in his isolation cell at the Anchorage jail. Autopsy results later showed he died of an unusual cluster of bleeding stomach ulcers.

Less than a week later, on April 10, Amanda Kernak, 24, died at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. The DOC has said her autopsy pointed to death from "natural causes" associated with alcohol-caused liver damage.

On May 11, Mark Bolus, a Palmer man with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, hanged himself in an isolation cell at the Anchorage jail.

Kirsten Simon, 33, a mother of two with a history of heroin addiction, was found dead in an Anchorage booking cell on June 6. Autopsy results have not yet been released.

Another inmate, Earl Voyles, died in January of a terminal medical condition, according to the Department of Corrections.

Last week Hollis French, an Anchorage lawmaker, asked top DOC officials to answer for the recent deaths at a public hearing to be held in Anchorage.

French said he was responding to concerns from constituents.

The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-noon on July 15 at the downtown Anchorage Legislative Information Office.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.