Tuesday, June 4News That Matters

Alaska Police Standards Council rejects proposal to lower the employment age of correctional officers – at least temporarily

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The Alaska Police Standards Council recently voted against a proposed regulation change that would allow the state to hire corrections officers as young as 18 years old, rather than the current minimum age of 21. The Department of Corrections had suggested this change as a response to staff shortages, a decreased applicant pool, and a high vacancy rate.

While some council members were open to the idea, they emphasized the need for a concrete plan to train and support younger hires. Deputy Commissioner Brian Barlow expressed discomfort with the proposed regulation but also suggested that there could be a way forward with proper preparation.

Council Chair Rebecca Harmon shared her experience with younger first responders and stated that with the right training and support, 18-year-olds can handle responsibility. However, former Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Dan Carothers cautioned that hiring immature individuals could pose risks to the safety of the corrections department, staff, and inmates.

Several members of the council, as well as corrections officers themselves, expressed opposition to the regulation change. However, North Pole Police Chief Steve Dutra supported the idea and suggested that with effort and a well-designed program, hiring 18-year-olds could be successful.

Ultimately, the council decided to reject the regulation change but indicated that they would be open to reconsidering it if the Department of Corrections returned with a more detailed proposal, including specific plans for training and supporting younger hires. Department of Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Winkelman expressed willingness to take the council’s comments into consideration and return with additional language on what the hiring program could look like, which would then be subject to another 30-day public comment period.

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