ANCHORAGE — The state corrections department announced a plan Tuesday to close the Palmer Correctional Center and transfer nearly 500 prisoners and many of the 105 staff members to other prisons throughout southcentral Alaska.
The state is facing a multibillion-dollar deficit amid low oil prices. The Palmer facility has a $10.6 million annual budget, and the state estimates it will save $5.6 million by closing the facility by the end of November.
The remaining $5 million will be used by other facilities to bring staffing levels closer to recommended levels.
The overall plan calls for a reduction of 30 staff positions once the Palmer facility closes. However, the actual number of job losses could be minimal as staff members targeted for reduction could take open jobs at other prisons, corrections spokesman Corey Allen-Young told The Associated Press.
Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams said in a statement that the plan will increase staffing and safety at other facilities.
The closing of the Palmer Correctional Center will come in two phases.
In the first, the facility’s 176 minimum-security prisoners will begin moving within two or three weeks, many to the Point Mackenzie Correctional Farm, Allen-Young said.
Besides the prisoners, 25 staff members from the minimum-security side will also transfer. Thirteen of those will go to the farm, and the remaining 12 will go to other facilities in southcentral Alaska.
The second part of the plan involves finding housing for the 303 medium-security prisoners at Palmer, Allen-Young said.
The prisoners will be transferred to other facilities, primarily the Goose Creek Correctional Center near Wasilla or the Wildwood Correctional Complex in Seward, and this should be completed by late November.
The Department of Corrections said it plans to work with officials from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to find a new use for the shuttered Palmer prison.