‘What we do doesn’t work’: As warden, he tried to radically change the culture of Alaska’s maximum-security prison. It led to his exit.

Anchorage Daily News

SEWARD — Bill Lapinskas started working at Alaska’s only maximum-security prison when he was a young man, just a few years out of high school. Over the next two decades he rose through the ranks, spending his days alongside guys doing life for murder.

By the time he became superintendent in 2016, he was convinced: Prison takes broken people and makes them worse. And all but a few are eventually released, dropped off at the Seward bus depot with a cardboard box of their belongings and a ticket to Anchorage. As superintendent, he was not interested in overseeing what he saw as a failing system of punishment.

“I’ve always seen what we do doesn’t work,” said Lapinskas, a blunt, burly man whose tattoos creep beyond the sleeves and neck of his business-casual button-downs. “It’s bulls–t, for lack of a better word.”

Lapinskas started to make changes, some of them based on his gut feelings, about how to make the culture at Spring Creek less about violence and despair and more about regeneration. He reduced the use of solitary confinement, placed an emphasis on earning GED diplomas and supported prisoners leading groups discussing everything from moral reasoning to sobriety. It didn’t seem like there was much stopping him.

“I’m not pro-prisoner,” he said. “I don’t think any one of those guys should get a free ride. But their sentence is separation from the community. They lose their freedom. It isn’t for us to menace them every day and make them worse human beings.”

Read the rest here: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/crime-courts/2020/03/05/what-we-do-doesnt-work-as-warden-he-tried-to-radically-change-the-culture-of-alaskas-maximum-security-prison-it-led-to-his-exit/

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