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Crime & Courts

Dunleavy administration suspends some corrections programs that aid inmate re-entry

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration is changing state Department of Corrections policies that some advocates say have helped people succeed when they're released from prison.

The changes by the Republican governor’s administration include removing a position focused specifically on inmate re-entry and suspending some special badges that allowed some volunteers easier access to the inmates they work with, and a 12-hour pass program that allowed some inmates to participate in community activities, Alaska Public Media reported Monday.

Cathleen McLaughlin, director of the Partners Reentry Center in Anchorage, said programs like the ones that were suspended were developed to help people transition back into the community.

"I am hoping, though, that we will take a look at what many of the services do, and how they are designed to do things in the best interest in the state of Alaska before simply saying we're going to put them on the shelf, or we're going to put them in the parking lot for a later date," McLaughlin said.

When the new administration took over, changes were expected, said Janice Weiss, who runs the Mat-Su Re-entry Coalition. The department's main concern is security and public safety and that doesn't mean the coalitions and the department can't still work together, she said.

"We still have very valuable services to offer to the folks who are either incarcerated or about to be released," Weiss said. "And we just need to find out the best ways to do that without causing any antagonism or problems."

The state Department of Corrections will continue involving community members in programs, said Nancy Dahlstrom, department commissioner.

“Without the community involvement, we won’t be successful,” Dahlstrom said.