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ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska's Department of Corrections is a month behind its own schedule to transfer inmates to private prisons in the lower 48 states, officials said.
The corrections department scheduled a Dec. 9 target date to issue a notice of intent to award a contract, KTVA-TV reported Wednesday.
Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom announced the start of the process in October, citing a growing prison population and dangerously low staffing levels.
The department said it planned to begin transferring inmates outside Alaska in early 2020.
Corrections department Deputy Commissioner and Legislative Liaison Kelly Goode told lawmakers Dec. 12 that the department was in the procurement process.
The department confirmed Wednesday that the procurement process was ongoing. But it did not answer questions about the delay or provide an updated timeline.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration has been criticized for the plan to house Alaska inmates in private prisons outside the state.
The Alaska Correctional Officers Association warned of consequences including the possibility of increased crime, recidivism and gang violence.
Democratic state Rep. Zack Fields of Anchorage said he plans to introduce a bill to halt the transfers.
"It is puzzling that the Dunleavy administration seems so fixated on shipping prisoners out of state when overwhelmingly Alaskans are opposed to it, correctional officers are opposed to it, families are opposed to it, the public safety community is opposed to it," Fields said in December.
Lawmakers have pushed for the reopening of the Palmer Correctional Center north of Anchorage. Dahlstrom said that is not a viable option.
The department already has a deficit of dozens of corrections officers and would require an additional 70 officers to operate the prison in Palmer, Dahlstrom said.