SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Department of Corrections (DOC), Selected Health and Safety Issues, Part 1, July 21, 2009.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we conducted a performance audit to determine: (1) the frequency of methicillin-resistant staphycoccolus aureus (MRSA) infections among inmates in Alaska’s correctional facilities; (2) the frequency of MRSA infections among correctional officers (CO) of the Division of Institutions (DOI); (3) the adequacy of protocols for staff when handling incidents of MRSA among inmates; (4) the validity of DOI’s methodology used for staffing patterns at the correctional facilities; and (5) the reasonableness of the staffing policies and procedures, including the minimum level of correctional officers at the correctional facilities.

This report is Part 1 of the Special Report on Department of Corrections, Selected Health and Safety Issues. In this report, we address the MRSA related issues identified above in numbers one through three. The remaining selected health and safety issues relate to staffing levels, which will be addressed at a later date in a separate report.

Report Conclusions

• During the two-year period of 2007 and 2008, the population of inmates infected with MRSA was less than six percent in each of Alaska’s four correctional facilities. We reviewed medical records of inmates incarcerated at the four correctional facilities located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome, and Seward to determine if inmates had MRSA. Inmates were identified as “having” MRSA if they either (1) had a confirmed positive MRSA culture or (2) had a skin infection that was not cultured but was treated by health care staff as if the infection was MRSA.

• The exact percentage of MRSA infections among correctional officers cannot be determined. COs are not required to disclose MRSA infections to DOC or any other state or federal agency. However, we reviewed workers’ compensation claims filed by COs between January 2007 through December 2008. We identified nine claims that were filed by COs who had MRSA infections, and believed it was contracted at the correctional facility.

• DOC’s health and safety protocols appear adequate. DOC’s policies and procedures contain the necessary health and safety protocols to prevent and manage MRSA infections.