Some questions are being raised about why deaths of some inmates in Alaska prisons are not properly or thoroughly explained.
In one case, an Alaskan woman lost her daughter. She got a call explaining that her daughter had died in a cell at the Anchorage Jail, only 32 hours after being booked.
Eight years later, after a wrongful death lawsuit and $50,000 settlement, the mother still doesn’t know how her daughter died, whether she suffered, or if jail employees tried to help her.
This story is a frightening representation of how a wrongful death case and investigation can go wrong: even if the family gets compensation for the loss of a loved one, important questions may go unanswered. And it seems as though these cases are too common with inmate deaths in Alaska.
According to a news article, when a person dies in an Alaska jail or prison, the family — as well as members of the news media and public — encounters the “black hole of information that is the Department of Corrections.”
Getting access to jail records or investigation documents requires the navigation of a bureaucratic process that includes a trip to probate court and filing of formal public records requests. According to the article, unless the family has an attorney and acts quickly, the Department of Corrections may destroy crucial evidence.
When an inmates dies in Alaska, the investigation — which determines whether policies and procedures were followed in the event of the death — is done internally. In simpler terms: Alaska jail deaths go unexamined and uninvestigated by anyone other than jailers.
On top of that, the investigation is secret: not accessible to the grieving family members. The Department of Law justifies this secrecy by saying that the investigation takes place in anticipation of a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and is therefore “privileged” and not subject to disclosure.
In many instances, families are left to piece together the story of how their loved one died from second and third-hand accounts given by other inmates. Families should be properly informed of how and why they are now suffering a loss, and correction facilities in Alaska should be held responsible.
Read the full story for more information. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one in Alaska and aren’t getting the answers you need, contacting an experienced wrongful death attorney to help you with your case and navigate the legal maze is vital.
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