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Alaska Supreme Court Upholds Prisoner Visitation Denial

by Ed Lyon

Alaska prisoner Keilan Ebli met substance abuse counselor Kerri Pittman at the Goose Creek Correctional Center (GCCC). According to evidence gathered by GCCC staff and investigators, Ebli and Pittman entered into a personal relationship, which is prohibited by prison rules.

Photos of the two “kissing” and “displaying wedding rings within a secure area of the facility,” along with recordings of over 2,000 telephone calls between them within a two-year period, some involving sexual conversations, were discovered.

Pittman’s parents began visiting Ebli and making monetary deposits into his prison trust account. Pittman transferred to another unit, but their relationship continued.

After their investigation, GCCC terminated visitation approval between Ebli and Pittman and her parents to include their ability to deposit money into his prison trust account. Pittman was fired for “staff misconduct” and notified that she was “indefinitely barred from visiting any prisoner incarcerated at any DOC facility” but no restrictions were imposed on telephone usage.

Ebli grieved the visitation terminations and lost. He then sought relief in a superior court on behalf of himself, Pittman and her parents.

The judge ruled Ebli lacked standing to sue on anyone else’s behalf. The judge then denied Ebli’s summary judgment motion and granted the government’s cross summary judgment motion. Ebli appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Alaska’s supreme court applied the four-part test in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84-85 (1987) concerning prisoner visits to Ebli’s fact situation. The court found it proper to defer to the prison’s reasons for terminating Ebli’s visitation with Pittman and her parents, especially in light of Turner’s fourth test part since Ebli’s ability to speak with Pittman via telephone was not denied. The superior court’s judgment was affirmed on November 1, 2019.

See: Ebli v. State, No. S-16916, 2019 Alas. Sup. Ct. (Nov. 1, 2019)


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Related legal case

Ebli v. State