The Palmer Correctional Center, now shuttered after a state Department of Corrections decision to close it due to budget cuts, was the topic of a “brainstorming” session earlier this month. The state wants input on how to re-purpose the buildings and the land now occupied by the prison. DOC spokesman Corey Allen-Young says the session was not a public hearing, but an informal gathering of people with ideas to share.
“We gathered key stakeholder from the Mat – Su Valley and Anchorage, representing everybody from state to private faith-based organizations, the Department of Natural Resources, the division of forestry, the Department of Corrections,” Allen-Young said. “The whole point of the re-purposing brainstorming session was to bring these people together to figure out what is the best use for the re-purposing.”
The goal, Allen-Young said, is to find a way to benefit the community, while saving the state some money.
“And so, one of the things we were asking is what are the kinds of uses that best satisfy these interests, and what community interests should the state be aware of,” Allen-Young said.
DOC contracted with Vantage Consulting as a non-biased third party to organize the event, and corrections department personnel only stood by as observers. About 60 people voiced their advice about how best to use the prison facility.
“I mean, literally everything was thrown up there, from medical marijuana to that’s where our state capital should be, to fire training,” Allen-Young said. “I mean, literally, we are looking at everything on the table. If it is something that is obviously legal, and feasible, then we are going to look at it.”
The facility covers 640 acres of land, owned by the state but leased by DNR. And there are 25 separate buildings on the premises, owned by DOC. The prison facility was used to house about 400 inmates, along with workshops used in rehabilitation programs.
Top nominations for use of the former prison lean toward either a law enforcement training facility or as a center for opioid addiction programs. DOC is expected to make a decision in about a year.