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Joint Judiciary Committee Receives Input on Rising Prison Costs


Members hear testimony on budget concerns, re-entry programs, and community supervision programs

FAIRBANKS-This week, members of the Joint Judiciary Committee met in Fairbanks to discuss options and receive input for Senate Bill 64.  SB 64 has several key components with three primary objectives:  to improve public safety, to hold offenders more accountable, and reduce corrections spending. 

SB 64 provides offenders with proven tools necessary to help them be successful once released from supervision. Alaska prisons are overwhelmed by low-level, non-violent drug and alcohol offenders who would be better served in less expensive community programs.  SB 64 also establishes a commission intended to analyze and evaluate the effect of laws and practices of the criminal justice system, to begin the process of determining whether Alaskans are receiving good value for the criminal justice dollars spent.

“We want to make sure the Native population, the mental-health population and service providers all have input to the Sentencing Commission,” said Senator John Coghill, R-Fairbanks/North Pole.   “I was also happy with the breadth of testimony on the programs we have available in Alaska.  It proved we do have evidence-based programs people can participate in which actually changes their behavior.  This not only makes offenders more accountable for their actions and more productive in society, but not at the expense of victims.”

The meeting started with a presentation on SB 64 by Chad Hutchison from Senator Coghill’s staff.   Next, Deputy Commissioner of Reentry and Population Management for the Department of Corrections, Ron Taylor, testified about budget projections.  Next, Taylor, along with Department of Corrections VPSO Coordinator Billy Houser talked about current incarceration rates and the need for new prison capacity in the future.

Members also heard from a panel of experts on the prisoner re-entry process, including transitional programs and substance abuse treatment.  Another panel discussed community supervision such as Probation Accountability with Certain Enforcement (PACE), and Sobriety 24/7.

“The 24/7 proposal has good success being demonstrated in other states.  If it saves money, and the human capital leaves room for the both the accused and the convicted to have more freedom to become productive members of society,  then it is certainly something we need to consider possibly implementing in Alaska,” said Representative Wes Keller, R-Wasilla.  “I’d like to compliment both my staff and Senator Coghill’s staff for their hard work on this bill.   It is exciting to see this progress.”

The Joint Judiciary Committee will continue addressing Senate Bill 64 in January when Session begins in Juneau.

For more information, please contact Jordan Shilling in Senator Coghill’s office at 907-451-2997.

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