Death at Mat-Su prison marks Alaska’s 18th person to die in custody this year

A 64-year-old man died last week while incarcerated at the state’s largest prison near Wasilla, officials say.

Morris Teeluk is the 18th person to die in Alaska Department of Corrections custody so far this year, which is the highest number of deaths in the last decade.

Teeluk, 64, died at Goose Creek Correctional Center on Dec. 11, the corrections department said. His death was “anticipated” and foul play was not suspected, according to a statement. The department does not publicly release the cause of death when people die in custody.

Four of the deaths this year were described as anticipated and one person died of COVID-19.

Teeluk has been incarcerated since 2014. He was serving a sentence for a conviction of second-degree sexual assault.

Advocates have asked Gov. Mike Dunleavy to order an independent review of the department in response to the number of in-custody deaths this year. Several people died after spending only a short time in corrections facilities, including two people who died after less than 24 hours in state care.

This year’s deaths top the 15 that were reported in 2015 and prompted an administrative review. The review found numerous problems within the facilities that contributed to the fatalities.

Fourteen people died during 2020, although COVID-19 was a contributing factor in five deaths.