Courts & Crime

Headed for prison? ACLU says Alaska's are better than most

Alaska's prisons are overcrowded but generally provide better living conditions than those found in Lower 48 facilities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska said in a report released Monday.

The report says that while the Department of Corrections needs to work on overcrowding and better medical and mental health treatment, "the prison system in Alaska does many things right, especially relative to dysfunctional prison systems in other states."

The authors of the report interviewed more than 150 Alaska prisoners and worked with the Corrections Department in gathering other sources of information.

Prison overcrowding has led to sending 20 percent of prisoners out of state to a private prison. In the state, at its bursting-at-the-seams peak in 2007, overcrowding meant housing three people in a two-person cell and converting prison gyms into prison bunk rooms.

The department is building a 1,500-bed new prison at Point MacKenzie in Mat-Su to accommodate prisoners now housed Outside and more. The project is supposed to be done in 2012.

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