State, Seward agree on prison expansion

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The city of Seward and the state have agreed on a plan to expand Seward's prison, adding a medium security wing to the maximum security facility.

The expansion will add 144 beds to the Spring Creek Correctional Center within an expanded perimeter fence.

The new facilities will be useful in shifting prisoners as they prepare to re-enter society, said Corrections Department spokesman Richard Schmitz.

Seward will sell revenue bonds to pay for the $22.8 million project, which also calls for renovation of the prison kitchen and other space. The project is to be completed by 2010.

Spring Creek opened in 1988. Seward paid to build the prison with bonds that the state paid off. Spring Creek houses 550 inmates.

The expansion is part of a long-range prison plan the Legislature authorized in 2004. The plan includes proposals for construction of a 1,536-bed prison at Point MacKenzie in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and a 68-bed expansion at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center in Bethel.

The state Wednesday had 838 prisoners housed in a private facility in Arizona, Schmitz said. A new Mat-Su prison, slated to open in 2012, would allow some inmates to return to Alaska. The new beds in Seward probably will be needed to keep up with in-state growth, Schmitz said.

A medium security wing at Spring Creek will give prison managers flexibility and prisoners a goal to work toward as they prepare for community release, Schmitz said.

"Rather than move to another facility with another culture and way of doing things, they can stay and remain in the same program activities," Schmitz said.

Seward city manager Phillip Oates said Spring Creek has provided jobs and families for the town and is considered a good neighbor. The prison is across Resurrection Bay from the town.

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