This photo, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Corrections, shows the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska. (Courtesy Alaska Department of Corrections)                                This photo, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Corrections, shows the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. (Courtesy Alaska Department of Corrections)

This photo, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Corrections, shows the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska. (Courtesy Alaska Department of Corrections) This photo, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Corrections, shows the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. (Courtesy Alaska Department of Corrections)

Spring Creek holds town hall

On Monday night, the Spring Creek Correctional Center opened its doors to the public, inviting them to the maximum security prison for an open discussion about the center’s restorative justice initiative, criminal justice and how these issues affect the surrounding community.

“Things like this are scary to a superintendent,” said Spring Creek’s Superintendent Bill Lapinskas. “To open your doors and have people come in and judge what you’re doing — but we’ve been putting more and more of the people first. What are we doing at Spring Creek? Whatever we have to turn out a better person.”

Last year, Lapinskas and the inmates worked to create the Restorative Justice Initiative, to fight high recidivism rates and help the inmates become better people.

Restorative justice focuses on restoring those impacted by crime and behavior rather than retribution for the crime itself. By working with the victim, the offender and the community, restorative justice hopes to heal victims while helping the offender return to society as a contributing member of the community.

“It’s asking what role does the community play,” said prisoner Matt Moore, one of the Restorative Justice Initiative’s three co-chairs. “Because no person is left untouched by this process, even if it’s just because your tax dollars go to locking these guys up.”

Moore and other inmates explained during the meeting that it’s important to focus on what happens when prisoners are released, to change the conversation from punishment to rehabilitation.

“On the fringes of society is where recidivism lives and that’s where you end up — what happens when you get out and aren’t accepted in society,” Moore said.

So far, the Restorative Justice Initiative has brought yoga, health and fitness, ethics and reasoning and more to the inmates — exercising both their minds and bodies to help when the time comes to transition back into the public.

“We’re trying to create better prisoners, to show them that there’s benefits to being a better person,” said Anthony Garcia, who teaches a weekly moral and ethics class to his fellow inmates. “It’s all about building character, building a good moral foundation because without training like that, you get out of here an old, bitter prisoner.”

On Mondays and Saturdays, correctional officer Justin Ennis leads a running group around the yard, teaching techniques, skills and pushing the inmates to push themselves in races. Other inmates participate in yoga classes or writing classes.

Those outside the prison have also contributed to the Restorative Justice Initiative, including Altra Running Shoes, which donates shoes for the running club, or The Fish House/Bay Traders True Value in Seward, which donated boots for the prisoners who work with dogs to prepare them for adoption.

There are also community volunteers, like Liberty Miller, who has been volunteering at Spring Creek since May and helped organize Monday night’s event. Miller’s brother was murdered and she said that volunteering at the prison has been a cathartic way to heal, a chance to practice forgiveness.

“These guys understand that we’re experiencing something together, from different sides of it,” Miller said. “I want to thank them for being so good to me and changing my life.”

Most importantly though, the inmates at Spring Creek Correctional Center are hoping to continue their conversation with the community.

“It’s not just about being nice to us. It’s looking at us as people. It helps,” said Garcia. “It’s about doing what’s right for the community. You put a person with morals, ethics and character out there and he’s a better person then when he came in. If you don’t, the community suffers.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

Ryan Tunks works at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn OՈara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘The first, first responders’

Dispatchers hope service isn’t lost in political dispute

FILE - In this March 12, 2020 file photo, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, addresses reporters at a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases, a day after the state’s largest hospital announced it had entered crisis protocol and began rationing care. When many people become ill at the same time, it overwhelms the state’s health care system. "And then we start to see excess mortality where more people dying from other things such as heart attacks and strokes and car accidents and bear maulings or whatever else happens," Zink said. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Zink: Health care workers face increasing hostility

Health care professionals with the state have borne the brunt of scrutiny… Continue reading

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic at Evraz Place in Regina on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults who have COVID-19 as the province runs out of critical care beds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Weekly vaccine lottery winners announced

The Alaska Chamber of Commerce announced the second week’s lottery winners Thursday,… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 7 recent COVID-19 deaths

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported another seven recent… Continue reading

Skilak Lake can be seen from Hideout Trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on July 5, 2020, in Alaska. (Photograph by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Refuge cancels ‘Fall Fun Day’ due to state of COVID

Peninsula Clarion The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge canceled its weekend “Fall Fun… Continue reading

Ahlberg to take over as OEM manager

Brenda Ahlberg is the new emergency manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.… Continue reading

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski North Star goes to universal masks

Universal indoor masking for staff and students was instituted at Nikiski North… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another COVID death, more than 1,200 new cases reported statewide

Statewide, there were 213 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Wednesday.

Candidates for Soldotna City Council attend a forum at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council candidates discuss city development, COVID response at forum

Jordan Chilson, Erick Hugarte, Dan Nelson and Micah Shields participated in the event.

Most Read