KYUK AM

Dept. Of Corrections Investigates Structural Issues That Led To Inmate Escapes

Aug 30, 2017

After 24 hours on the loose, two inmates were returned to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center in Bethel after they fled through a storm drain on August 26, 2017.
Credit Aleina Tanabe / KYUK

A succession of state corrections officials have filed through Bethel, investigating what led to the escape of two inmates from the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center this weekend. The duo fled through a storm grate and were apprehended after less than 24 hours. KYUK spoke with Commissioner of Corrections Dean Williams on Tuesday about the response to the jailbreak, and what’s being done to secure the prison.


Williams: I had my Internal Affairs people out here. I had my Director of Institutions out here. I’m out here reviewing all the same thing they’ve been reviewing, so there’s been three sets of people who’ve reviewed what’s going on.

Some of the things going on I’m willing to talk about are the fact that we have a 33-year-old facility, so there are some vulnerabilities with that facility. There are other things as well. I don’t want to talk about them so much, because I don’t want to expose any more of the vulnerabilities that we have. I can just say this: any time one of these instances happen, we do everything we can to secure it. So we have done some things already to secure the facility a little bit better.

KYUK: Are these vulnerabilities structural with the building, or are they procedural with the way the building is run?

Williams: Any time you have one of these occur, it’s not one or the other, but some of this is in relation to structural issues that we’re remediating right now. But some of this is policy issues too, and there are some things that we can remediate or correct there, too.

KYUK: Like what?

Williams: I have to be careful what I’m going to say, but there’s some things about when other inmates communicate other things to inmates about certain parts of the building, and they only know that because some of the trusted inmates are in places where we wouldn’t put these two guys who escaped. So you have to be careful that one person doesn’t relay information to another person.

The bottom line is that each one of these bad events is a learning lesson for the department. As I said, we’ve dedicated ourselves to telling the truth about it, and we reveal what went wrong and do everything we can to fix it. I’ve talked with people in the community; I do not want this to happen again. Believe me, I lost a lot of sleep over this thing.

I couldn’t be more pleased the way it ended up. I’ve been praying over this thing, and all my staff have been, that we would find these guys quickly and nobody would get hurt, and fortunately nobody did.

By my way of thinking, as far as bad instances go, this had a better result than I could have hoped for in some ways, because we got them back in very short order with the help of the local police department, my probation officers, my staff. We brought staff in from Goose Creek to cover the institution while my staff became armed and did the search as well.

So we had all hands on deck about it. I’m really pleased with the response, not happy of course that it happened in the first place, but this is a rough business, and it’s a dangerous business sometimes, and you just have to learn from your mistakes and go from there.

KYUK: Thank you.

Williams: Thank you.