Wildwood Correctional Center is seen in this undated photo. (Alaska Department of Corrections)

Wildwood Correctional Center is seen in this undated photo. (Alaska Department of Corrections)

Correctional facilities open to visitors beginning Friday

Visits are by appointment only.

Alaska Department of Corrections institutions, including Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai, will fully reopen for public visitation beginning Friday by appointment only.

In addition to visitation guidelines, COVID-19 mitigation protocols must be followed. Visitors will be subject to COVID-19 screening prior to entering, including a temperature check, and must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth at all times. Physical contact will not be allowed at any time. Institutional lobbies will also reopen on an appointment-only basis for the collection of bail and contributions to Offender Trust Accounts.

DOC facilities have been operating under strict protocols as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among inmates. Like the rest of the country, Alaska’s correctional facilities saw a surge in COVID-19 cases at the end of last year. More than 440 cases, for example, were reported among Alaska inmates between Nov. 24 and Dec. 4 of last year.

DOC data updated on Monday showed that of more than 32,000 COVID-19 tests conducted by the department, roughly 2,100 general population inmates have tested positive. That’s in addition to 260 “remand positives,” which refers to inmates who test positive for COVID immediately upon entering the facility and contracted COVID through community transmission.

Additional data show that across all DOC facilities, 4,857 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and 2,242 inmates are fully vaccinated. That includes 404 doses at Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai and 182 inmates who are fully vaccinated. At Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, 227 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered and 114 inmates were fully vaccinated.

DOC inmates are offered the COVID-19 vaccine but are not required to receive it.

The peninsula’s two correctional facilities account for about one-fifth of Alaska’s total inmate population, according to previous Clarion reporting. While COVID-19 cases in correctional facilities surged statewide last December, however, cases in peninsula facilities stayed low.

Wildwood Superintendent Shannon McCloud told the Clarion in December that she mostly attributed their low numbers to the facility’s COVID mitigation protocols and to the layout of the facility. In addition to screening inmates upon arrival at the facility, Wildwood also had a designated “quarantine zone” in the pretrial building.

People interested in scheduling a visitation or other appointment at a Department of Corrections facility should contact the institution directly. If cases of COVID-19 increase, visitation may be immediately suspended. Visitation at Anchorage Correctional Complex remains suspended due to recent positive cases. More information about the new protocols can be found on the DOC website at doc.alaska.gov/covid-19.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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