Inmates to work the slime lines

Heidi Zemach for SCN

Seafood Workers at Icicle in Seward last year. Heidi Zemach file photo.

Seafood Workers at Icicle in Seward last year. Heidi Zemach file photo.

Some 15-16 eligible male inmates from Point Mckenzie Correctional Institute, the state’s minimum security correctional center, and Wildwood Correctional Center, the state’s prison in Kenai for long-term medium-and minimum security custody inmates, have qualified for a new work-re-entry program to work at Icicle Seafoods/Seward Fisheries. It’s an experimental two-week program, beginning next week.

They will be temporarily housed at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, and transported directly to and from the seafood processing facility before and after their shifts in the Department of Corrections prisoner-transport van.

Inmates from the Wildwood facility recently worked at another fish processing plant in Kenai with good results, said DOC spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder. She did not say which plant, however.

The idea of the new program is “a self-esteem job,” she said, “It also teaches a skill. They’re going to walk out of prison with a skill. It’s a huge re-entry effort.” While working at Icicle, they would be learning all aspects of processing plant work, Shroeder added, but she did not think they would be doing the regular 13-hour shifts that other workers do, however.



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The DOC also provides inmates at Wildwood with other job-related skills inside the prison facility. The transitional program at Wildwood includes vehicle maintenance and repair, plumbing, carpentry, gardening, electrical, food service and computer skills.  But this new program is the only one in Alaska where inmates are currently working in the private sector, she said.

The inmates will be wearing home-prison style electronic ankle bracelets, with GPS, thus allowing corrections officers to track their movements, she said. Local police have been notified, and will be immediately alerted if any of the inmates stray from the perimeters they set around the facility, said Seward Police Department Lieutenant Butch Tiner. They will be delivered to and from the seafood plant in a DOC van, and returned to Spring Creek, where they will be temporarily housed, at the end of their shift. A DOC representative told Seward that an officer would make spot checks during the day to see how things were going at the plant.

Tiner said he did not foresee any problems for the community at large, adding that these are inmates who have been screened, are nearing the end of their prison terms, and that certain types of offenders, such as sexual offenders, will not be among them.

Shroeder denied that a shortage of workers at Alaska’s processing plants this summer contributed to DOC’s plans for the new summer work program. But seafood plants across Alaska did anticipate having a more difficult time recruiting an adequate workforce this summer with the loss of the J-1 (international student) Visa program. Alaska Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski designed special legislation to address the issue, and Begich placed it in the immigration bill creating a new program that allows foreign workers to be employed at seafood processing plants provided that the seafood industry can prove that there’s a need, and that they can’t fill those jobs with the local work force.

Calls were not yet returned by the media spokesperson at Icicle Seafood’s corporate office in Seattle for comment on the inmate-job program.

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16 Comments

  1. Before any more comments are posted in regards to soon-to-be-released inmates taking jobs from local residents (see previous article on Spring Creek), please keep in mind the positive aspects of job training for people who have been incarcerated. Statistics show that an ex-felon is less likely to recidivate if he/she is gainfully employed, has family support and a roof over his/her head. That fact alone should have our community supporting training programs like this one!

  2. Long Gone.. Well Said. It is extremely dificult for someone who has been incarcerated to re-enter the work force,it is wonderful that they will get a supervised opportunity.

  3. So these criminals have been screened, that makes me feel safe NOT. The police will only be there after the fact if some thing goes south. Why is the self esteem of these criminals worth more than our safety and peace of mind??

  4. They almost all get out sometime. This isn’t about self esteem, the weight pile on the yard does that. Integration into the community and successfully completing probation time involves having employment. This is a good idea expect that SCCC is not physically able to house these guys separate from the rest of the prisoners. Staffing shortage problem is not going allow the secure storage of these temporary prisoners in site. Minimum custody prisoners need to be housed outside the wire.

  5. Carol Griswold says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to send these minimum security workers to a seafood processor in Kenai? That way they could get the work experience and be safely housed, most of them in their own facility at Wildwood.

    Spring Creek just isn’t set up for minimum security outside the fence; that proposal was not funded. Why risk mixing them with maximum security prisoners and subjecting them to temptation or coercion?

    With the current Spring Creek correctional officer shortage, and other serious issues, it seems like an unnecessary, risky experiment to add these minimum security prisoners to the volatile mix.

    I hope this decision will be reconsidered.

    Sincerely,
    Carol Griswold

  6. Job training was previously provided by AK DOC with the industries program at the furniture shop at SCCC as well as metal shops in Wild Wood & Palmer. One of the dumbest decisions that the department made was to dismantle this program. Unlike the slime line jobs which is very short term the prison industries program provided marketable (trades) job skills under close supervision in a secure environment. This program needs to be resurrected.

  7. Minimum risk prisoners were successfully used to control vegetation on the RR tracks for decades. This program was ended arbitrarily and led to herbicides being applied up and down the railbelt with out any public support whatsoever. These prisoners are men, not pawns. As far as mixing minimum and maximum security inmates it seems much more risky than beneficial.

  8. Curious George says:

    I wonder how many will be ready to quit after the first day? That is some long days and hard work. Can they quit? Who is there to make sure they don’t walk off the job? So what if they have ankle bracelets, what is to keep them from going elsewhere and meeting up with someone? Are they under watch physically by CO’s for the entire shift?

  9. The minimums and the maximums are never together. They are housed and fed in a different part of the facility. Also, these minimums are drunk drivers, bootleggers and the like near their time to be released. There is no way they would risk an additional 7 years on to their bid should they decide to try and escape. This is a good start at making productive citizens of guys who have made mistakes. Should have been done long ago.

    • James are you on site and can attest to this personally? The ability to move things (drugs) in prison is almost as possible as you see in the movies, especially with the staffing shortages. Most likely the only excluded group of prisoners is sex offenders. Murders, burglars, drug users, & thieves all get a chance to be classified as minimum. Also, career criminals. Another 7 yrs is significant to me and you. to a convict it is just a little more time. Regular people don’t understand their thought process

  10. Hi Polaris, not on site now but did spend many years there (as an employee)LOL. There has always had minimums housed there in an isolated facility so this is not a huge change. They work in the public areas and even outside the fences. As to the flow of contraband it happens no matter what precautions are taken. Sad but true. Giving near the end of their sentence prisons a second chance, some gate money and a head start on a productive live is a good thing and DOC should be commended for stepping out of the box and doing this.

  11. http://jamesgloweremembered.blogspot.com/

    The only person named James Lowe to ever work at SCCC. Who this imposter is I have no idea but I am very offended.

    Whoever you are – I don’t know when you were there as an employee (if ever) but you couldn’t be more wrong about them being housed together. You do not know what you are talking about.

  12. You went through this nonsense before when we discussed COs carrying weapons. Only the ex Supt or recently retired asst Supt would try to defend posted statements he knows are true that are an embarrassment to the system. I hope you are enjoying your retirement. As to being incorrect with my statements you know the minimums are housed next to the medical facility just off the gym in the main building and not out in the mods like the other inmates.
    None of this should affect the issue that giving minimums real jobs and a decent wage (rather than .50 cents per hour)is a good start to getting back into a productive life outside the gates.

    • If you know so much about the situation you should also know that almost every prisoner housed in that area has had problems. Either being beat up or caught with contraband eventually. Inside the wire is no place for prisoners with access to outside. The cannery is easy access to drugs & weapons. Simple enough to swallow and pass when back inside the fence.

  13. Nonsense? The nonsense is on your part for using the name of a very nice man who is now deceased. What kind of person does that? I’m neither of the two people you accuse me of being. I’m still there everyday. What about the 17 mins working the slime line that are living in House III? Again, you have no idea what you are talking about. Call over to the prison and ask.

    Your statements are incorrect and you shouldn’t be taken seriously. For those of us that do know what is going on inside, you are a disgrace in acting like you do and passing on bad information.

  14. I have been working in the seafood industry for 30 years now and have worked around ex-inmates off and on for a good many of those. I currently now volunteer in a ministry house for young men, either on their way out of Prison or on their way in. One common thread in most cases, is the lack of Support, and self esteem. If you were told your whole life you were worthless or were a mistake, or abused as a kid verbally or otherwise, your self esteem would be shot. I dont think, I know. So please before you pass judgement on a program to build inmate self esteem by giving a young man a job. Spend some time in their lives.