Alaska News

Third Alaska inmate with COVID-19 dies in custody

An Anchorage inmate died Tuesday from COVID-19 complications, marking the third virus-related death among inmates at the state’s correctional facilities, according to Alaska officials.

The 78-year-old inmate had been at the Anchorage Correctional Center before being taken to Alaska Regional Hospital on Friday, corrections department spokeswoman Sarah Gallagher wrote in an emailed statement.

The unsentenced inmate had been in custody since 2017 and was charged with sexual abuse of a minor. The inmate had underlying health conditions, Gallagher said in the statement.

The announcement comes amid a staggering COVID-19 outbreak at another Department of Corrections facility. More than half of the inmates at the state’s largest prison, Goose Creek Correctional Center in Point Mackenzie, have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began in early November, the corrections department said last week.

Since the start of the pandemic, 19 people with the virus in Department of Corrections custody have required hospitalization at some point, according to the department’s data. Nine hundred and eighty-seven general population inmates have tested positive as a result of transmission within a corrections facility, and 177 people have tested positive upon entering a facility.

By December, at least 227,333 people in the nation’s prisons had tested positive for the virus, and infections have reached new highs nationally, according to The Marshall Project. In total, at least 1,571 deaths have been reported among prisoners nationwide, according to the outlet.

To protect private health information, the Alaska Department of Corrections does not plan to release the name of the inmate who died with the virus, Gallagher said.

Unrelated to COVID-19, a 64-year-old inmate in Department of Corrections custody died at a California hospital on Monday. Horace Nelson was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder and had been in custody since May 1979, Gallagher said. He had been serving his state sentence at a federal correctional facility in Victorville, California, since 2014, according to Gallagher.