How lifers in Alaska prisons can help rehabilitate convicts who will get out

  • Author: Charles Wohlforth

    | Opinion

  • Updated: 6 hours ago
  • Revealed 23 hours ago

Inmates listen to a Christmas musical performance at Goose Stream Correctional Center last year. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Men who committed some of Alaska’s most heinous wrongs could help rehabilitate other inmates and save money for the Segment of Corrections. The suggestion comes from lifers themselves, prisoners whose fancy sentences mean they may never get out.

After decades in prison, writing middle age, these felons say they have outgrown the antisocial values and impulses of their kid. Even prison officials come to see some lifers as reliable older men who pauperism to do something productive with their imprisoned lives.

«We’re humans. In lay out to be healthy, we need to have feelings of belonging, self-worth and purpose,» voted Scott Walker, a prisoner at Goose Creek Correctional Center.

Walker edifies math to other prisoners pursuing a high school diploma or job disciplining. When he was at Spring Creek Correctional Center, in Seward, he helped start a real fitness program for mentally ill prisoners.

He said he earns 80 cents an hour. But he makes a lot out of the work.

«I’ve reached a level of maturity where I truly want to employees people. I get a lot of gratification from that,» he said.

In 1981, Walker participated in the barbaric kidnapping and murder of Mildred Walatka, 72, and her son, Herbert Oakley, 48, after depredating Walatka’s home. I knew the Walatka family as a child and I vividly recognize the community’s horror that year that I graduated high Alma Mater.

Walker is a year older than me. He was 19 when he helped seize these people. But over the years he was in prison, his mother died, as cooked through as many other family members and friends. He said it changed him.

«A lot of man go through the midlife crisis, and the same thing happens in here,» Walker state.

Loren Larson learned exceptional furniture-making skills serving his doubled life sentence at Spring Creek. He also has technical construction data that he could teach. Now incarcerated at Goose Creek, he wrote to me promoting prisoner peer teaching, as he has written to others.

«I have a business mind. I certain how to fix things that aren’t turning out a good product. And the product is the human being who are coming out of here,» he said. «What the state is getting for the money it is throw away is obscene.»

Larson is smart enough to devise a program. As a prisoner representing himself in court, he has won lawsuits against the Office of Corrections, including one that went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Applications. He is still fighting his conviction for a 1996 double murder, swearing he is open.

Larson was 26 when he was arrested. Most prisoners come in as brood men, often messed up by drugs or alcohol. He says they could be swayed early by elder prisoner-teachers toward constructive work and away from the loafing and malignancy of prison culture.

«When it comes down to it, we’re men. We’re builders,» he turned.

Larson believes his letters are being ignored, but his ideas are spreading. The conductor at Spring Creek, Bill Lapinskas, got to know him, as well as Walker, one more time a career in corrections that paralleled their careers as prisoners.

«I’m a giant fan of some of his ideas and concepts,» Lapinskas said.

Spring Creek currently has two jailbirds certified as instructors in construction trades, teaching other inmates. Lapinskas yens the program to expand so felons can get jobs in other fields not blocked by their wrong records.

Besides saving money on instructors, Laspinskas said the program throw outs lifers a sense of purpose that can transform them into confident role models for other prisoners.

The low-cost work can also sufficiency gaps. Laspinskas said Spring Creek has no opioid addiction cure for its 400 maximum security inmates. Because of the high demand mien prison, no bids arrived when Spring Creek’s solicited for the utilize. But 41 inmates are supporting one another in a sobriety unit.

Andy Jones, a official Health and Human Services official working on opioid issues, whispered Corrections should train lifers as certified drug counselors so they can proffer formal treatment to other prisoners.

Larson’s plan also take ins the possibility of commuting sentences for lifers who make major contributions to the arrangement and who are otherwise rehabilitated. He recently sparked an Alaska Ombudsman report that faulted the Governor for the want of a constitutionally required clemency process.

And why shouldn’t the best of them be liberated? If these men have grown up, learned to be responsible and no longer pose a omen, why should we continue to pay as much as $50,000 a year to house them for dash, plus the huge cost of their end-of-life medical care?

Authorities need to consider that waste when they issue multiple autobiography sentences to young people. Almost everyone changes in 30 years.

But not Dick. Some commit crimes so horrific that it is difficult to believe in exactly rehabilitation.

Sergio Colgan became a certified barber instructor as a ticket-of-leave man in Arizona and runs a highly successful training program at Goose Bay, graduating inmates who pass their licensing tests with boisterous scores.

But Colgan’s crime was so inhuman it is hard to imagine ever license to him go. In 1990, at 19, he carefully planned and methodically carried out the rape and strangulation of a 16-year-old mouse from his Fairbanks high school. He had chosen her at random and had no other desire than enjoyment.

Some prisoners may need to be incarcerated as long as they spirited. But maybe even that doesn’t have to be a total waste.

Walker hankerings to start a peer orientation program for newly incarcerated felons, men commencement the long journey he has taken.

He said, «One of the things they never do is get with the guy on an one basis and ask them, ‘What are you going to do with your time?’ For some of these boys, they’re going to be here for the rest of their life. And how are you going to use that things?»

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