ANCHORAGE — An audit of the Alaska Department of Corrections has identified systemic problems, including an inadequate mechanism for reviewing inmate deaths and factors that could affect the quality of health of those incarcerated.
The results of the $320,000, yearlong review comes at the end of a year in which the agency was under scrutiny over the way it handled a series of inmate deaths. It also comes after longtime corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt and institutions director Bryan Brandenburg were dismissed by the administration of new Gov. Bill Walker.
Corrections was the first department selected under a 2013 state law mandating a performance and budgetary audit of state departments at least once every decade, Alaska Dispatch News reported.
The Legislative and Budget Audit Committee extended the scope of the audit and paid an additional $23,000 for a deep look at the quality of inmate health care.
The report says Corrections is “moderately effective” in primary functions of confining inmates. It also praised the agency for re-entry programming and other opportunities to help inmates learn a trade, kick addictions and stay out of jail.
There are gaps, however, in the department’s health care policies, according to the report, compiled by CGL, a company based in Sacramento, California.
“We noted significant issues and omissions in these policies that do have an impact on the quality of health care provided,” wrote CGL senior vice president Karl Becker in the report.
According to the review, the department has poorly defined procedures for medical screenings during intake at the busiest jails. Several of the inmate deaths this year occurred hours after those prisoners were booked. The department also lacks a mechanism to review deaths with the intent of what might have gone wrong and how to fix it, according to the report.
The report calls for more defined policy in other areas, such as sick calls, and encouraged the agency to create a health care quality improvement plan.
Department officials said they recognize some health care policies are outdated.
“We are in the process of reviewing and evaluating those that can be updated, which may result in improvements in health care services,” Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said.
Among the findings, the review said that some security policies are outdated and that the department doesn’t track grievances from inmates or the public well enough.