Union: Alaska's correctional system in 'crisis' due to staffing shortages

Randy McLellan, president of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, claims severe understaffing has created a dangerous environment for staff


By CorrectionsOne Staff

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Union officials representing Alaska's correctional officers say the system is in "crisis" due to staffing shortages and failed recruitment efforts.

KTUU.com reported that severe understaffing has created a dangerous environment for staff and inmates across the state's correctional facilities. Randy McLellan, president of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association and staff sergeant at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, said there has been eight assaults against COs at Hiland over the past few months. The department is currently down 90 officers — a staffing gap that has worsened since late October. 

"We are at minimum staffing levels," Nancy Dahlstrom, corrections commissioner, said. "Any place could be unsafe."

According to McLellan, staffing shortages are even worse at Anchorage Correctional Complex and Spring Creek Correctional Center.

"I lose sleep thinking about my co-workers at Anchorage jail or Spring Creek, thinking anytime I'm going to get a call saying, 'It happened, we had a riot, two officers are dead,'" McLellan said.

Understaffing, McLellan said, has led to correctional officers feeling overworked and burned out. 

In order to combat the issue, $75,000 has been added to the governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year to hire more correctional officers. 

However, McLellan claims the money set aside is not enough to solve the department's staffing issues. 

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