Alaska Governor Bill Walker Signs Justice Reinvestment Bill
Alaskan Governor Bill Walker recently signed Senate Bill 91 into law, beginning the process of reform for the state’s criminal justice system. If successfully implemented, the bill will reduce prison populations by 13 percent by 2024 while saving the taxpayers $380 million. The bill focuses on nonviolent, low-risk offenders and the recommendations made by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission in December of 2015.
These recommendations were made after a seven month data-driven examination of the state’s criminal justice system. The commission found that Alaska’s criminal justice system was on an unsustainable path that was not offering an acceptable safety rate-of-return. Their findings found that “three-quarters of offenders entering prison post-conviction in 2014 were convicted of a nonviolent offense” with a recidivism rate around 60 percent.
To provide better alternatives, Alaska’s new laws reduce some sentencing ranges for nonviolent offenses, expanding eligibility for probation and parole, and increasing incentives for good behavior for those in the system. In total, $98 million of the $380 million saved from these reforms will be reinvested into the system to strengthen recidivism-reduction programs, violence prevention programs, and victim services to more efficiently use taxpayer dollars for public safety.
In his state of the state address, Governor Bill Walker spoke of criminal justice reform, saying it was a collaborative effort across the state and “between all three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial.” The ALEC model Resolution in Support of Justice Reinvestment encourages states to reform their criminal justice system in the way that Alaska has done. In addition, several organizations, including Right on Crime, which is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, supported SB 91. ALEC applauds the state’s collaborative effort to reduce the incarceration of nonviolent, low-risk offenders through evidence-based reforms.