Lawmakers left a packed public hearing addressing a string of recent inmate deaths in Alaska jails and prisons Tuesday calling for legislation to establish a third-party independent review of such deaths.
"I think (such legislation) is very realistic," said Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage. "Other states do it, first of all. I heard the (correctional officers union) asking for it. And I didn't really hear the commissioner say that's a bad idea."
Tuesday's hearing brought top Department of Corrections officials together to answer for the recent deaths of five young inmates at Alaska correctional institutions between April and June.
The hearing was held in a room tucked in the temporary Downtown Legislative Office next to the Gaslight Lounge. Spectators -- including mental health advocates, correctional officers, news crews, families of dead inmates, and attorneys -- spilled out into the hallway.
The turnout was much larger than what's typical for a legislative hearing, said French. The lawmaker said he convened the hearing after getting calls from concerned constituents.