Behind the Landscape on Alaska's Politics & Culture


December 4, 2012

Koenig Family Denied Justice by Alaska’s Department of Corrections

anchorage jail

What was Alaska’s Department of Corrections “special surveillance” for Israel Keyes in Anchorage’s townhouse jail? 

AK INSIDER has it that the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) failed to provide the safety and protection for Israel Keyes, the key suspect in the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig and denied the justice deserved for the victim’s family. The Anchorage Jail already convicted and sentenced Keyes to death once he entered the facility.

Responding to the Koenig family’s concerns; Alaska DOC Institutional Director Bryn Brandenburg publicly stated that Keyes:

            1. underwent psychological testing
            2. was under special surveillance that placed him in the jails segregation unit
            3. was under 30-45 minutes visual checks; and,
            4. due to inmate privacy, there are no cameras in the cells

Anchorage’s jail only conducts a one-time cursory psychological evaluation during initial in-processing called booking. Are you suicidal, homicidal, or a danger to yourself or others? The prisoner gives simple no answers. This is checking the box in-processing, end of psychological evaluation. Later, during a Federal court hearing Keyes attempted an escape from the courtroom that earned him a cell in segregation.

Keyes is not suicidal, but now a flight risk. No other psychological evaluation would be conducted?

Keyes admits having a split personality. Under extreme mental pressure after the FBI presents its case during his interrogation in the jailhouse drags out a full confession.  According to Anchorage Police Chief, “He was very, very sensitive to his reputation.”  Keyes now labeled as a serial killer, inherits even more media coverage within the jailhouse walls of the DOC and its officers.

Keyes is not a danger to himself only to others; is he deemed guilty by DOC officers because of his recent confession? No other psychological evaluation is conducted, nor are there any special precautions in place for this now high-profile serial killer in Anchorage’s local jail.

The Jail provided Keyes with means and methods to commit suicide. AK INSIDER identifies these means as; “Death by Pencil,” “Death by Teacup,” or death by bed sheets, clothing, and a lighting fixture. Pencils issued to inmates as in plastic ware, plastic trays and plastic tea cups. Other inmates deliver these items and may not be inventoried. Broken plastic and a sharp pencil in the right spot is bleeding to death…according to Anchorage DOC personal; strangulation by items in the cell can be done; some other methods possible, but not probable, could be drowning in the single cell toilet or smashing oneself against objects in the cell creating massive brain injury. Shake downs are rare.

AK INSIDER has it that the DOC gave Keyes the opportunity to kill himself for the reason that DOC officers do not conduct visual 30-45 minute checks. Keyes was not on suicide watch. Then why the frequent visual checks? It is not in the character of our local jailhouse custodians to be proficient and dedicated in their job watching over segregation cells. They are left alone. Only cameras in the segregation unit halls can provide evidence of DOC officer’s following procedures.

Weekend staffing is minimal to non-existent for segregation units. Most of the times inmates are left alone for long durations as welfare checks are almost non-existent. Maximum segregation consists of three meal checks and maybe one phone rotation during the daytime. Showers are not used unless the prisoner requests. DOC officers do not always physically check into the peep windows of the solid cell doors during a walk through.

The community is disturbed about Keyes’s opportunity to escape justice. The FBI should be livid after all their work and hearing that their prime suspect in serial murders can no longer speak.

The Koenig family wants justice!  The family can seek justice by demanding a complete Federal investigation into the inspection and monitoring of prisoners while in the custody of the State of Alaska’s DOC jail, particularly since Alaska has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. The family may hold the Alaska DOC accountable from the Commissioner down to the on-duty shift staff for those responsible for Keyes safety.

Alaska DOC needs to provide the camera playbacks from the segregation unit’s cell checks on the night of Keyes death, all DOC officer records for that unit and all the cells items need to be reviewed in an investigation that will be open to the public. Anchorage’s holding unit reputation is at stake.

The Anchorage jail’s responsiblity is to provide adequate health and welfare protection for inmates especially for those that have not had their chance in court; confession, or not and allow victims’ families the justice they deserve.

Sources: Alaska DOC Institutional Director Bryn Brandenburg, KTTU interview; past inmates familiar with the Anchorage DOC facility’s segregation unit process and procedures; and Anchorage Pre-Trial DOC employee admissions.

About the Author

Chief Editor
Paul Bauer has served in various positions on Anchorage community boards, commissions and councils in and out of elected office with over a decade of business management experience after serving 22 years of national service. His background includes living in and visiting many diverse communities around the United States, Europe with small excursions to the Pacific that had him working with culturally diverse groups of people most of his life. As an Assembly Member he was one Member that voted against Mayor Mark Begich's costly budget increase; the largest spending budgets in the city's history; raising awareness to get a public discussion on illegal immigration in the city and removing the city's "Sanctuary City" status; bringing public awareness of the Mayor's lavish spending and his conflict of interest with his family's gift shop on the “E Street” road improvement project.


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