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Joint Judiciary Committee to Meet On Rising Prison Costs

Legislators to focus on Senate Bill 64 at Fairbanks Assembly Chamber on Monday, November 4th

Fairbanks – The Joint Judiciary Committee is hosting its second interim hearing on corrections and criminal justice reform next week at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Chambers. Lawmakers will focus on Senate Bill 64, a corrections omnibus bill moving through the Alaska Legislature with bipartisan support.  Following the lead of tough-on-crime states like Texas, Senate Bill 64 has several key components with two primary objectives:  to cut state spending on corrections and ensure public safety.

 “At our current growth rate, lawmakers will face funding another prison within 3 years. The state must either start planning to build a new $250 million dollar prison or look at proven practices that reduce recidivism,” said Senate Judiciary Chair John Coghill, R-North Pole. “With that goal in mind, the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced Senate Bill 64 to address some of these problems and slow the growth of our corrections budget. Most importantly, Senate Bill 64 emphasizes accountability and personal responsibility. Less crime, better public safety, and less cost; those are our three guiding principles.”

The basic idea is to receive good value for our criminal justice dollars.  Senate Bill 64 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.

Senate Bill 64 also 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.

House Judiciary Chair Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, commented, “Alaska’s criminal justice system is at a crossroads.   Despite downward trends in crime, our prison population is rising approximately 3% each year and 2 out of every 3 prisoners are re-incarcerated within three years.  Failure to address these trends will require Alaska to construct another prison in the near future and bear the increased financial and societal burdens.  SB 64 does not retreat from punishing wrongdoing.  Rather, it champions proven and cost-effective rehabilitation alternatives to the well-intentioned, yet unsustainable mass incarceration model of yesteryear.”

SB 64 draws upon the experiences of Lower 48 states that have successfully addressed their own over-incarceration problems by increasing offender accountability with a focus on rehabilitation. During Monday’s hearing, legislators will look population growth, budget growth and recidivism.   Members will also hear from a panel of experts on the prisoner re-entry process, including transitional programs, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.  Another panel will discuss community supervision such as Probation Accountability with Certain Enforcement (PACE), Sobriety 24/7, and alternatives to incarceration.

WHO: Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees
WHAT: Criminal Justice Reform Meeting regarding Senate Bill 64
WHERE: Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Chambers
WHEN: Monday, November 4th, 9:30am to 3pm
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Public testimony will also be taken at 2:30 p.m. (1-855-463-5009) If you can’t make it in person, you can watch live on akl.tv

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

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