Alaskan Law Enforcement Officials Emphasize the Need for Criminal Justice Reform
An op-ed published in the Juneau Empire and written by two law enforcement officials, including Alaska Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety Gary Folger, stated they were encouraged by Alaska Senate Bill 91 (SB 91), which is currently in the Alaska Senate. The bill adopts the recommendations of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, which endorses reducing incarceration rates and recidivism rates by focusing on nonviolent, low-risk offenders and providing alternative methods to incarceration for those types of offenders. “By advancing evidence-based reforms to the state’s systems for…sentencing and community supervision, SB 91 aligns our justice system with the best knowledge in the field on what works to prevent crimes and change offending criminal behavior,” they stated.
In addition, they note the recommended changes would “spend state dollars more efficiently and better protect public safety.” These changes include addressing mental health issues and drug addiction crimes, which substantially contribute to a revolving prison door. If a person is found guilty of committing a nonviolent crime, such as drug possession, either via trial or plea, it can act as a substantial barrier for future employment. This inability to properly provide for oneself makes it difficult for individuals to integrate back into society.
Alaska’s current rates of incarceration and recidivism have driven up the prison population, which has led to an explosion in spending costs. This in turn depletes taxpayer dollars that could be spent on prevention, treatment and community supervision. Alaska is spending “hundreds of millions of dollars each year on prisons, and not seeing a good public safety return on that spending.” Prevention, treatment, and community supervision are all viable options for nonviolent, low-risk offenders and would reduce crime and recidivism. Furthermore, the reforms would prevent wasting additional taxpayer money on practices that don’t work. Ultimately, these reforms give Alaska the chance to save taxpayer funds while simultaneously providing better public safety outcomes for its citizens.
ALEC continues to be committed to criminal justice reform and is thrilled that members of the law enforcement community are recognizing evidence-based reforms for nonviolent, low-risk offenders. ALEC has model policy aiming to reduce incarceration rates by providing alternatives to incarceration. In addition, ALEC has alternatives to mandatory minimums for offenders who meet certain criteria. Each of these reforms serves a unique purpose to reduce incarceration rates and would permit those who have committed certain nonviolent crimes with the chance to become reintegrated into society.