Alaska in Brief

Winkelman named Alaska Corrections commissioner-designee by Gov. Dunleavy

By: - January 12, 2023 5:00 am
This symbol is inside of the Alaska Department of Corrections office on Sept. 7, 2022, in Douglas, Alaska. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

This symbol is inside of the Alaska Department of Corrections office on Sept. 7, 2022, in Douglas, Alaska. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named the Alaska Department of Corrections’ interim leader to serve long term as the agency’s commissioner-designee. The position is subject to confirmation by the Legislature.

Jen Winkelman is seen in an undated photo. On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he's naming Winkelman as commissioner-designee of the Alaska Department of Corrections. She had been serving in an interim capacity. (Photo provided by the Alaska Department of Corrections)
Jen Winkelman is seen in an undated photo. On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he’s naming Winkelman as commissioner-designee of the Alaska Department of Corrections. She had been serving in an interim capacity. (Photo provided by the Alaska Department of Corrections)

Dunleavy, in a news release Wednesday, announced the selection of Jen Winkelman, who has served in a variety of roles within Corrections since 2001. Winkelman was named acting commissioner last May when Nancy Dahlstrom left the department to run for lieutenant governor. Prior to that, Winkelman served as director of pretrial, probation and parole.

“Commissioner Winkelman has demonstrated sound judgment and leadership these past few months,” Dunleavy said in the release. “She brings both experience and knowledge to the commissioner’s office and Alaskans can be assured the department is in good hands.”

Commissioner-designee Winkelman is based in Juneau. Her name will be forwarded later this month to the Alaska Legislature for confirmation. Senate and House members meet jointly, typically late in the legislative session, to vote on all of the governor’s appointees. 

Corrections ended 2022 with a decade-high number of deaths – 18. All but one of them took place while Winkelman was acting commissioner. During a news conference in October, she said the deaths were not unusual.

“While it’s unfortunate to have any death, it is not unusual and it is not a reflection on our staff’s ability to care. We have over 30,000 people that enter and leave our facilities every year, and it’s often a very sick population,” Winkelman said at the time. “The average number of deaths over the last 10 years is nearly 12 deaths per year.” 

Corrections has faced criticism and scrutiny over this high number of deaths, which include several individuals in their 20s or 30s or who died after only a short time in state custody. Some family members have struggled to get information from Corrections about how their loved one died. The department has cited privacy laws in response to questions about why it hasn’t provided more details. 

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Lisa Phu
Lisa Phu

Lisa Phu covers justice, education, and culture for the Alaska Beacon. Previously, she spent eight years as an award-winning journalist, reporting for the Juneau Empire, KTOO Public Media, KSTK, and Wrangell Sentinel. She's also been Public Information Officer for the City and Borough of Juneau, lead facilitator for StoryCorps Alaska based in Utqiagvik, and a teacher in Tanzania and Bhutan. Originally from New York, Lisa is a first generation Chinese American and a mom of two young daughters. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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