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Inside Alaska's Prisons: Part 2

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 25 2014 06:13:02 PM AKST
Updated On: Feb 25 2014 06:17:27 PM AKST

Being a correctional officer is not an easy or safe job. Officers have to be aware at all times because of the risk of an attack -- but even with that risk, the job is not all physical.

POINT MACKENZIE -

Being a correctional officer is not an easy or safe job. Officers have to be aware at all times because of the risk of an attack -- but even with that risk, the job is not all physical.

You can call Chad Brooks the Goose Creek rover, because his day begins and ends the same -- by walking every nook and cranny of the Goose Creek Correctional Center, a minimum and medium-security complex.

"As a rover I walk 20 miles a day, just back and forth between this facility," said Brooks, a correctional officer with the state Department of Corrections. 

It's a lot of mileage but it's for a purpose, because Brooks' job is to make sure every one of the close to 1,300 inmates are secure at all times.

"This is basically a town," Brooks said. "And we are the police that beat the street."  

A six-year DOC veteran, Brooks spent five years at the Anchorage Jail before coming to Goose Creek last May. 

He loves the challenge of coming to work, saying it requires him to use his mind more than his muscle when dealing with the large number of inmates.

"You have to be able to use your head and think quick on your feet, and try to calm situations down and not using physical force," Brooks said. "Very few times that we have to put hands on -- a boring day is a good day in prison." 

Brooks says it's all about being firm, fair, and consistent with inmates -- but he says that doesn't mean he isn't prepared.

"You treat them like a man and you will get the same in return," Brook said. "We always stay on guard no matter what, no matter what."

While Goose Creek's dual classification means some inmates pose little flight risk, Brooks says the mix makes him more vigilant.

"You should never feel totally comfortable in a setting like this," Brooks said. "Just because they are considered minimum-medium (prisoners) to us correctional staff, we are suspicious of everyone -- and minimum-medium just tells me that they could go either way."

"As far as my safety, I have my fellow officers and I got this radio, and I know if I call they will be right there." 

But its not just talk with the inmates

Brooks says the purpose is to keep them motivated to do something positive, whether that is treatment or working a job.

"If we bring them in here and just have them sit in a cell all day they will go get bored, you know idle hands and everything." 

It's a combination of hands, feet, and words, that must to work together to ensure Brooks and his fellow correctional officers can do their jobs and help inmates serve out their sentences successfully.

While security is important, the department's goal is to give an inmate all the tools possible to make sure they don't go back to prison.

Editor's note: In Part 3 of this series, a woman who spent four years behind bars describes the skills she used to survive.