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Culture While Incarcerated

Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus; KNOM.

About two-thirds of those incarcerated in Alaska and then released from prison return.

In recent months, however, Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Center has taken a fresh approach to lower recidivism rates and to improve rehabilitation for inmates: a new embrace of traditional Alaska Native culture. Inmates at AMCC can participate in potlatches, learn musical instruments, or go fishing.

In these efforts, the regional prison is taking some of its cues from another Arctic region, Norway, which has the lowest prisoner recidivism rate in the world. Norwegian prisons have come to promote “rehabilitative justice.” Volunteer fellow Emily Hofstaedter reported for KNOM listeners last month that AMCC is emulating the Norwegian effort to “teach the offender how to re-enter society rather than punish them” — but with very Western Alaska touches. The art of ivory carving is vibrant within AMCC’s walls. However, instead of walrus ivory, which is unavailable, inmates practice on Ivory soap bars. Their carvings line the walls of the prison classroom.

The new approach isn’t limited to artistry or cooking. AMCC prisoners also have new access to mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral specialists. Treatment services that previously required a trip of hundreds of miles — to the distant cities of Anchorage or Fairbanks — can now be delivered on-site, which improves treatment outcome.

You can read and hear Emily’s full story right here at knom.org. Positive stories like this are a staple of KNOM’s ongoing news efforts.

Image at top: Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.