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October 30, 2017
Senate Bill 91: How Did We Get Here?
We have all been affected by the recent uptick in crime. I’ve had multiple vehicle break-ins and earlier this month, my son’s truck was stolen and totaled. In addition to what I saw in my police officer ride along, my family and I have also personally witnessed several crimes being committed, including vehicle thefts and break-ins, a woman being attacked and then dragged into Campbell Creek, and a convenience store robbery. Thankfully, we were able to help prevent these crimes from actually being carried out. The amount of crime we are seeing lately is alarming and requires our immediate attention.
Trooper Steve Bear visited with Rep. Chris Tuck to talk about public safety.
In my last e-news, I talked about the formation and purpose of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC).
The ACJC met seven times and hosted five public hearings across the state. They reviewed and researched data and evidence from multiple sources, including successes achieved in other states. For instance, since Texas passed criminal justice reform in 2007, they have saved over $33 million in prison operating costs and crime has gone down a remarkable 26%. Last year, they actually closed a prison.
Additionally, the ACJC received assistance from the Public Safety Performance Project, a part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In December 2015, the ACJC released their Justice Reinvestment Report, which presented a comprehensive, evidence-based package of policy recommendations to enhance public safety and hold offenders accountable while reducing the state’s prison population. Revising sentencing and corrections policies would help focus state prison beds on violent and habitual offenders. A portion of the savings would then be reinvested into strategies to reduce new crime, including expanded alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs.
The ACJC issued 21 consensus recommendations to reduce recidivism and corrections spending in Alaska. These recommendations prioritized:
These recommendations formed the basis of Senate Bill 91 (SB 91), which was heavily and passionately debated in committees and on the floors of both the Senate and the House. This was the most thoroughly debated bill I’ve seen on the House Floor since I first took office in 2009. At 122 pages, it was also one of the longest bills I’ve seen (as a comparison, this year’s operating budget bill was 125 pages long).
Since the passage of SB 91, I and my colleagues in the Legislature have heard from many Alaskans about their concerns. Crime was on the rise before SB 91 took effect in July 2016 and continues to rise. SB 91 has caused a lot of concern that sentences aren’t long enough to deter crime, especially property crime, which has increased dramatically.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 55, which made technical fixes to SB 91, and now the Governor has called us in to special session to address Senate Bill 54, which contains more substantial fixes to SB 91. In the House Judiciary Committee, 50 new sections were added to the bill in direct response to the public’s concerns.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family! I want to continue talking about and addressing public safety.
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