Dean Williams speaks to reporters after Gov. Bill Walker appointed him to be the new commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections on Thursday. Walker is shown behind Williams' shoulder.

Dean Williams speaks to reporters after Gov. Bill Walker appointed him to be the new commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections on Thursday. Walker is shown behind Williams' shoulder.

Corrections union unhappy with new commissioner

The members of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association say they’re unhappy with the governor’s choice of Dean Williams to run the state’s prisons, and that Williams manipulated information to blame corrections officers for problems within the prison system.

The ACOA held a press conference Friday in Anchorage to outline its opposition to Williams and over the weekend provided additional information to the Empire.

The union added that Williams “defamed” the officers and put their lives in danger because he did not obscure their faces in videos released to the public. The videos showed incidents where inmates died in DOC custody.

In an interview with the Empire before the ACOA claims, Williams said he intends to begin his work in corrections (his first day was Monday) by building an internal affairs team to investigate complaints and problems. He also said he will eliminate the double-track command structure in Alaska’s prisons whereby not all officers within a prison report to that prison’s superintendent.

In regard to officers’ reluctance to work with Williams after his investigation, he said, “telling the truth about what’s happening in a system is not condemning the people who work in the system.”

“I’m not approaching this with that sort of clean-the-house at the lowest level approach,” he said. “My goal is to fix the system so their (corrections officers’) job becomes better.”

Williams, along with former FBI agent Joe Hanlon, performed an in-depth investigation of the Department of Corrections last year after more than two dozen inmates – including some held in protective custody for drunkenness – died in prison.

The four-month investigation, which concluded in November, ended with the resignation of corrections commissioner Ronald Taylor and the appointment of Walt Monegan, Department of Public Safety commissioner under former Gov. Sarah Palin, as an interim chief.

Monegan was one of 14 people who applied to become the new permanent corrections commissioner. Walker instead went with Williams, something that shocked union members who had expected Monegan.

ACOA’s objection to Williams has focused on his handling of one particular case within the corrections report. That case involves the death of Larry Kobuk, an Anchorage man who died in the Anchorage Correctional Complex.

On Jan. 6, Williams released a video of Kobuk’s interactions with corrections officers within the ACC. That video documented how four officers restrained Kobuk even as he claimed he couldn’t breathe. The copy of the video initially released to the public was stripped of audio. Later released, the audio reveals Kobuk shouting at and threatening that he will shoot officers in the head.

According to the ACOA, the officers followed procedure in their strip-search of Kobuk and in their use of a “four-point restraint” procedure that has one officer grab every limb.

The ACOA provided copies of a memo from Assistant Attorney General Robert Henderson, who found in August that the incident did not warrant criminal charges against the four corrections officers involved.

“The officers were trained to continue to secure an uncooperative individual, even if that individual is stating that he ‘can’t breathe,’” Henderson concluded.


A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Walt Monegan as a corrections commissioner under former Gov. Sarah Palin. He was commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Juneau School District administrators and board members review the updated budget for the current fiscal year during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The Juneau School District had a $9.5M projected deficit this year. It’s now a $633,185 surplus. How is that possible?

Resignation of 34 employees since January, health insurance savings among reasons, officials say.

Rep. Sara Hannan (right) offers an overview of this year’s legislative session to date as Rep. Andi Story and Sen. Jesse Kiehl listen during a town hall by Juneau’s delegation on Thursday evening at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Multitude of education issues, budget, PFD among top areas of focus at legislative town hall

Juneau’s three Democratic lawmakers reassert support of more school funding, ensuring LGBTQ+ rights.

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, mayor of the Inupiaq village of Nuiqsut, at the area where a road to the Willow project will be built in the North Slope of Alaska, March 23, 2023. The Interior Department said it will not permit construction of a 211-mile road through the park, which a mining company wanted for access to copper deposits. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Biden shields millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness from drilling and mining

The Biden administration expanded federal protections across millions of acres of Alaskan… Continue reading

Allison Gornik plays the lead role of Alice during a rehearsal Saturday of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” which will be staged at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé for three days starting Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that requires quick thinking on and off your feet

Ballet that Juneau Dance Theatre calls its most elaborate production ever opens Friday at JDHS.

Caribou cross through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in their 2012 spring migration. A 211-mile industrial road that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority wants to build would pass through Gates of the Arctic and other areas used by the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, one of the largest in North America. Supporters, including many Alaska political leaders, say the road would provide important economic benefits. Opponents say it would have unacceptable effects on the caribou. (Photo by Zak Richter/National Park Service)
Alaska’s U.S. senators say pending decisions on Ambler road and NPR-A are illegal

Expected decisions by Biden administration oppose mining road, support more North Slope protections.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 13. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House members propose constitutional amendment to allow public money for private schools

After a court ruling that overturned a key part of Alaska’s education… Continue reading

Danielle Brubaker shops for homeschool materials at the IDEA Homeschool Curriculum Fair in Anchorage on Thursday. A court ruling struck down the part of Alaska law that allows correspondence school families to receive money for such purchases. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers to wait on Alaska Supreme Court as families reel in wake of correspondence ruling

Cash allotments are ‘make or break’ for some families, others plan to limit spending.

Most Read