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Union and State Still Disputing Prison Staffing Minimums

Published On: Aug 14 2013 01:09:56 AM AKDT   Updated On: Aug 14 2013 09:20:09 AM AKDT

It's a dispute over jail safety that's reached a climax in the past few weeks.

In July, the Anchorage Correctional Complex reduced its minimum number of officers for the day shift from 39 to 37. Since then, the Union representing those officers says there have been at least two violent incidents within the jail complex.

"The issue we're having is they continue to cut minimums, and minimum staffing is the minimum amount of officers that they have to have to run the institution,” said Brad Wilson, the business manager for the Alaska Correctional Officers Association. “And those minimums need to stay up and they continue to drop under this administration."

Bryan Brandenburg, director of Division of Institutions, says the numbers remain adequate and similar to numbers across the state, despite recent violent incidents.

"It's not that we took people off of the shift,” Brandenburg said. “We just now, when there's not someone there we find someone else that's on shift to work that instead of calling in overtime to cover that post."

Brandenburg said while the number has been reduced, the number of officers within the building will remain the same, because those two officers are in new roles, but are still able to respond to incidents if needed.

Union representative Wilson also says that Brandenburg has made deceptive statements to media regarding the ratio of officers to inmates and about the number of officers working the night shift.

"We have some serious concerns made last week by the director, comments made on Channel 2," Wilson said. "One of the comments he made was there are 33 officers at night at Anchorage Jail, that's deceiving.”

According to Wilson, there are 33 officers on shift between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. but from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., there are 22 officers on shift.

“The other [discrepancy] I have with the director was he made a comment that there's 4.7 inmates for every officer,” Wilson said. “That's also deceiving - the facts of the matter there is four shifts, four, there's only one shift on at any given time.”

According to Brandenburg, it is common to refer to the number of officers to inmates in their total figures instead of by shift.

"Staffing issues are based on work load and post orders and we are adequately staffed in all of our facilities and so it's unfortunate that they felt that that was deceiving in any way," Brandenburg said.

While the Union and the State may not agree on staffing numbers for various shifts, one thing they both say is a top concern is safety of both officers and inmates.

Contact Mallory Peebles