A number of complaints about issues at Lemon Creek Correctional Center as it dealt with COVID issues in 2020 were addressed in a recent news release from the state ombudsman’s office. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

A number of complaints about issues at Lemon Creek Correctional Center as it dealt with COVID issues in 2020 were addressed in a recent news release from the state ombudsman’s office. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Prison investigated for medical treatment amid pandemic

Report stems from four complaints.

Lemon Creek Correctional Center was investigated for multiple complaints about COVID-related issues in fall and winter of 2020, according to a report from the Alaska Ombudsman’s office.

In two cases, state Ombudsman Kate Burkhart found Department of Corrections personnel acted reasonably, but in two other cases, the office made recommendations that were followed by the facility, according to the ombudsman’s office.

There were four separate investigations occurring over fall and winter of 2020, according to the release. The first was a shortage of medical treatment, the second was the usage of a tent for housing inmates, the third was adding new inmates to an in-process quarantine and the fourth was related to shower access during medical isolation.

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LCCC was operating without 40% of its medical staff due to exposures at one point, the ombudsman found. Evidence showed that while inmates were receiving adequate care based on the COVID-19 plan at the time, they weren’t having their temperatures checked as frequently as they should have. DOC brought on additional medical staff in December 2020 to address shortage, and followed the ombudsman’s recommendations about training additional staff to perform temperature checks, according to the news release.

The tent has been in use at LCCC for 23 years due to overcrowding in general population, according to the ombudsman. While inmates were provided with hand sanitizer, it doesn’t replace the benefits of regular hand washing, according to the report, which cited the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DOC installed a sink in January 2021 after consulting with the ombudsman.

In the other two cases, the ombudsman found that LCCC personnel had acted reasonably in both cases. While adding new inmates to existing quarantine groups is suboptimal, according to the ombudsman, it was within the guidelines. The ombudsman found that the other complaint, regarding shower access during medical isolation, had been unfounded; their showers had not been unreasonably limited.

The ombudsman’s office has received 66 complaints about the DOC since July of 2020 said the news release, which represents about 16% of the total complaints, around 400, received in that time. A previous ombudsman’s report in early 2021 had recommended following a complaint at LCCC an overhaul of the DOC’s dental program, a challenge across the state.

A DOC spokesperson acknowledged receiving a message with questions on Tuesday afternoon but was unable to immediately return answers with complete information.

Read the full ombudsman’s report below

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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