Corrections eyes Seaside beds for AMCC inmates
Nome Common Council Member Stan Andersen slammed the window on a breeze wafting into City Hall with news that the Alaska Dept. of Corrections might want to load empty beds at Seaside Center with inmates from AMCC, sex offenders included.
The subject arose when Andersen reminded City Manager Tom Moran that he had not read an item in his activity report to the Council Monday evening that dealt with DOC Commissioner Dean Williams’ drop-in visit in July to meet with Mayor Richard Beneville and Moran on the future of GeoCare Seaside Center, a re-entry “halfway house” operating on Front Street.
“DOC has expressed some concern that a large number of beds [at Seaside] are going unfilled due to overly stringent regulations on who can be placed there,” Moran’s report said. “Though no final decisions have been made, the Council will need to weigh in eventually.”
Andersen wanted to weigh in right then, heavily.
He would “be damned” if Corrections would be putting inmates in Seaside to release beds at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, Andersen declared. “If they want us to subsidize the state budget, …they are screwing us.”
“Dean Williams, and Dean is a good friend of mine, ought to be ashamed, sneaking in and out of town,” Andersen continued. “Before anything goes on, it’s the City Council’s decision, not the mayor or city manager’s.”
The DOC has taken budget cuts stemming from SB 91, a criminal justice reform bill that aimed to cut the number of people in prison for nonviolent crimes. Williams has been going around to small communities around the state that have facilities in the Community Jails Program, which includes AMCC. The measure requires a pre-trial service program to be established by the beginning of 2018 for defendants not incarcerated but waiting for cases to be resolved.
Nome Code of Ordinances Section 3.30.050 under Chapter 30—Correctional Facilities (privately owned) specifically bars housing untreated sex offenders.
The prohibition on sex offenders appears to be the only “stringent regulation” in Chapter 30 on who can be placed in Seaside or similar facilities in Nome, except for a consideration of whether the facility likely would house prisoners from Seward Peninsula.
Sex offenders are named “for a damned good reason because the public wanted it that way,” according to Andersen.
Some Council members stated agreement with Andersen. Moran and City Clerk Bryant Hammond got direction from Andersen to dig out the paperwork on the City’s regulations on correctional facilities so the Council could go over it.
Section 3.30.050 states in full:
“Correctional facility permit applications must contain an agreement by the applicant that they will not take for placement any untreated sex offenders, except those released untreated sex offenders considered “in transit” may be temporarily placed in the correctional facility due to inclement weather or flight schedules which prohibit the same day transfer of offender.”
GeoCare Seaside Center, owned by Geo Group, Inc., renewed its three-year permit effective May 23.
The facility averaged 39 residents a month for the first quarter 2017, according to required entries on the application. Seaside has a capacity for 62 persons. The application stated that no resident had left without authorization since the permit was issued in March 2013.
The number of prisoners housed in the three years of that prior permit was 535 in 2014, in 2015, 570 and year 2016, 498.
The permit application also asks for the number of persons housed whose previous primary residence before incarceration was located on Seward Peninsula. That answer was listed as 50 percent with the remaining almost 50 percent from Kotzebue NANA region, with a few from North Slope or Y—K Delta.
In urging the Council to approve the application for renewal submitted to the City by Robert Weston, Seaside facility director for GeoCare, Moran noted that Nome would lose out on financial benefits if the permit were not renewed.
“Losing Seaside would be a serious blow to our local economy and leave a large number of people out of work or out of town,” he said.
The facility paid $100,000 annually for utility service to Nome Joint Utility System in the past year, according to Moran told the Council during renewal consideration.
Records show that for tax year 2017, GeoCare Seaside Center owned $816,700 in taxable real property and $371,480 in taxable personal property—equipment and such. The facility employed 14 full-time employees and three part-time employees.