AK DOC Today

News, Events, and Activities in the Alaska Department of Corrections

John Lee Hooker Jr. visits Spring Creek

On a September day remarkable for its sunbursts, a member of blues royalty paid a visit to Spring Creek.

John Lee Hooker Jr., a dapper, dynamic, showman and, himself a man with a past, walked purposefully, back an forth before the guys sitting on the bleachers. And, as if on cue, the sun reached down through the high gym windows and lit everyone up. “I’m from the streets just like you,” his voice boomed. And over and over he threw out the challenge: “Why sit here and not change?”

To hook his audience, to get bodies swaying and heart rates up, the Reverend gifted us with a taste of his award-winning gospel.

He energetically moved on to biblical stories and, most powerfully, shared his own saga of three prisons, alcohol and drug addiction, that he was stabbed, that he was shot, and that he overdosed. “I once tried to rob a blind man. He beat me up.” There was laughter. There was genuine introspection. And there was a connection. And there was that Autumn sun enfolding us all.

Spring Creek’s Hobby Shop Lily Pads

There once was a boy named Nick. Nick had a kind heart and a smile for everyone. Since the tender age of 4, Nick also had leukemia. At 17, Nick lost his life to a brain tumor. But that is not how Nick will be remembered.

One day at the hospital, as the story goes, Nick saw a child struggling with an IV stand and a beautiful idea was born in his head: the Lily Pad. He pictured this child choosing her favorite, hand-painted Lily Pad, climbing aboard, and floating along as her stand was gently propelled by unseen hands. Nick died before he could complete this project in his high school’s shop class, but his classmates stepped up and helped realize his dream.

This story of the Lily Pad spread, eventually reaching the sister of Alan Burton, an inmate craftsman at Spring Creek’s Hobby Shop. With funding for materials donated by the prisoners’ Bonsai Club, five woodworkers and painters teamed up to create Lily Pads for three Alaskan Hospitals: Fairbanks Memorial, Alaska Regional, and Central Peninsula. Over the years the hobby shop members have made countless and very generous contributions to charitable causes, but nothing has motivated them more than reaching out to children. Painter David Forster chose a character from “Frozen,” a movie he has yet to see. “I painted a little flower in the snow, behind Olaf. The little flower–I believe–filled him with joy.” Haley Anthes, the manager of pediatrics at Fairbanks Memorial, wrote to Mr. Burton: “Your desire to donate these has already brought joy to the nurses who work here. I can only imagine what the children will feel when they see them.” And we can all imagine that Nick is still smiling.

Nome Correctional Officers Teaching Carpentry

Officer Charles Derek Franklin works with inmates at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in the absence of an education coordinator, teaching basic carpentry skills.

Officer Franklin does an awesome job in accomplishing projects, ensuring inmate and staff safety and passing skills on to others.

Officer Franklin and Officer Robert Grubb are special projects rovers. These two officers are an asset to our facility and help broaden inmate skill sets. Keep up the good work!