Committee hears testimony on COVID-19 risks in correctional facilities and API

The House State Affairs and Health and Social Services committees held a meeting this week to hear testimony on COVID-19 health risks in high risk facilities like prisons, jails, and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). The meeting is a follow up to a workplace safety meeting held last week by the two committees.

During the meeting, committee members heard from workers and representatives of hotels, the Department of Corrections, McLaughlin Youth Center, and API, who described problems with worker safety and personal protective equipment shortages.



A press release from the Alaska House Majority states:

“Barry Yabyabin, a juvenile justice officer at McLaughlin, told the committee that for three weeks many employees have brought hand sanitizer and soap from home as some of the facility’s units are completely out. Brad Wilson of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association said many correctional officers face similar troubles accessing personal protective equipment. Jake Metcalfe of the Alaska State Employees Association – which represents workers at API – said that communications with the administration about COVID-19 safety has been ‘practically nonexistent.’”

According to testimony during the meeting, 5 correctional institutions in Alaska have confirmed COVID-19 cases so far: Lemon Creek Correctional Center, Fairbanks Correctional Center, Anchorage Correctional Complex, Goose Creek Correctional Complex, and the Mat-Su Pretrial facility.

On Thursday the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced the first positive COVID case for an employee at API. DHSS says API is working on the contact tracing investigation and that new patient admissions are on hold for at least 72 hours.