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Inside Alaska's Prisons: Part 1

Published On: Feb 24 2014 07:01:00 PM AKST   Updated On: Feb 24 2014 07:02:11 PM AKST

When it comes to housing Alaska's 5,153 inmates, there's isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Officials say 95 percent of them will eventually go back into society -- and each day, the goal is to make sure their time behind bars is well-spent. 


At Goose Creek Correctional Center, staff are all about organization. No matter what the prison's nearly 1,300 male inmates are doing during the day, it has to be something that will benefit them in the future.

"Time on their hands is probably our worst enemy inside a prison," said Goose Creek's superintendent Amy Rabeau. 

Rabeau says that means inmates have to take on personal responsibility for their lives while they are in here. 

"They need to do something with their time," Rabeau said. "You can't sit somebody in a cell and expect them to behave -- you got to keep people busy and active, you got to keep their minds moving."

Institutions statewide offer treatment, education, and job training programs to the inmates they house. The state's cost per day to house an inmate is almost $159, which adds up to nearly $58,000 a year.

The goal is to make sure that money is spent to help inmates deal with their issues, so they can be successful in the community when they get out.

David Peirson, 33, is in Goose Creek for theft. He's taking advantage of all of the institution's options, which includes a new rescue dog training program -- extra responsibilities he's trusting will keep him focused when he's released.

"My root cause of all my crimes is just from drugs and alcohol," Peirson said. "I'm in jail now but I hope (that) when I get out, I'm not too tempted to use or anything like that."

But that temptation is not easy to shake. After assaulting a federal officer, 26-year-old Kyle Johansen won't get out of state and federal custody until he's 34. Although he too is participating in programs at Goose Creek, when it comes to his future it's day by day.

"Everybody's mindset is different up in here; some people have good intentions, some don't," Johansen said. "Trying to make the best of a bad situation, that's all I can do."

Correctional officer Chad Brooks is part of Goose Creek's reform process. He says much of prisoners' behavior depends on that of prison staff.

"You treat an inmate with respect, treat them like a man and you will get the same in return," Brooks said.

At the state Department of Corrections, officials hope the combination of skills they're teaching inmates guarantees they never come back.

Editor's note: On Tuesday, get an up-close look at correctional officer Chad Brooks' daily routine in Part II of this series.