Christmas potlatch celebrated at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center
The Anvil Mountain Correctional Center celebrated the season with its annual potlatch on Thursday, December 14. The event brings together inmates, staff and members of the community for a great feast. The tables were loaded with turkey, ham, all the extras, specially baked Christmas cookies and deserts. After the meal there was musical entertainment and traditional drumming and dancing.
“It’s planned out well in advance, there’s a lot of different people who contribute to it,” said Superintendent Sandra Martinson. “We had a lot of great donations from Bering Tea, from Bering Air, from Hansons, from AC. The Nome Police Department donated some bicycles and the inmates refurbished them. They were given out during a raffle.”
The meal was cooked by inmates with two kitchen staff supervising.
Relatives of inmates and members of two Nome churches enjoyed the meal along with the inmates.
AMCC houses adults serving sentences and those awaiting trial, both male and female. It serves both Nome and Kotzebue and their surrounding regions with pre-trial and short-term incarceration. The facility has a wide range of educational, social skill, and re-entry programs for the inmates. It replaced the old territorial jail, which was located in the former Federal Building on Front St. in 1985. AMCC is designed to hold 128 prisoners and at this time, it has 132. About 15 are women, most of them from the Kotzebue region.
Education co-ordinator Christina Apostolou is responsible for the wide range of classes available to inmates. Most are designed to help the prisoner do well once released and to cut down on recidivism. Criminal Attitudes Program, OCS approved parenting class, The Adverse Childhood Experience, Anger Management, and GED are a few of the offerings which make good use of a prisoner’s time while housed at AMCC. Upon release they will be better prepared to function as a lawful member of society. On a practical level, the inmates can take Hazwoper, OSHA General Industry Training, Flagging, Food Safety Class and others. And there is Guitar Class and inmate-led traditional drumming and dancing. All this adds up to the experience of incarceration equipping the inmate to better negotiate life on the outside.
The Resources for Change course is about transitioning back into society and not re-offending. AMCC’s class is 10-weeks long.
“Most places only run a four week program,” said Apostolou. “I did a lot of research and this is broken down into three parts. The first deals with substance abuse issues. The second part deals with how to obtain a job.” The job part includes how to do a resume and how to show up for work. “After you have the job how to stay motivated. A lot of times inmates tell me they get frustrated when they get out there. They get frustrated and that is a relapse trigger.” Apostolou has been at AMCC since January. She came from Goose Creek Correctional Center in Wasilla.
After the meal, a group from the Nome Covenant Church sang Christmas carols. They were followed by members of Nome’s Our Savior’s Lutheran Church also singing carols.
Then the drums came out and the dancing began with many inmates taking part.
Correctional officer Lt. Devin Bodine said, “As far as it goes I think we have one of the best-kept secrets. With our inmates and our population, I think we have a good jail.”