For Immediate Release: July 16th, 2014
THE FIRST STEP TOWARD A SMARTER CORRECTIONS SYSTEM
Historic Corrections Reform Bill Signed Into Law
ANCHORAGE – Today the Governor signed into law Senate Bill 64, a sweeping criminal justice and corrections reform omnibus bill. SB 64 has several key components with three primary objectives: to improve public safety, hold offenders more accountable, and reduce corrections spending.
The legislation, led by a bipartisan group of Alaska State Senators, and introduced by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R-North Pole), is intended to avoid building another $250 million dollar prison in just two years. This rare bipartisan effort includes provisions added and supported by Republican and Democratic state legislators to address the long-term costs associated with incarcerating non-violent, low level offenders, most of whom struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues.
“I remember the contentious debate over funding for the Goose Creek prison. It wasn’t long ago, and Goose Creek is almost full. It was time to start looking to build another prison or to start being smarter about our corrections policies.“ said Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), one of the bills original champions. “We spend almost $160 per day to house just one inmate, and the majority are there on technical violations or for a crime related to out of control addictions or untreated mental health issues. Two-thirds are back in custody within three years at great public expense. The system is broken. It was past time to start fixing it.”
Senate Bill 64 passed both houses unanimously, and has been thoroughly vetted by the Departments of Law and Corrections and the Court System. Among other provisions, the legislation includes combat-related PTSD as a mitigating factor for veterans, creates an offense of custodial interference, mandates twice-a-day alcohol monitoring for certain offenders on probation and parole, establishes the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, creates a program to apply swift and certain sanctions for probation and parole violations, starts a recidivism reduction fund for community re-entry services, raises the felony theft threshold, allows for certain offenders to receive credit for time served in a residential treatment facility, and expands the use of risk assessments for inmates in order to determine their treatment needs.
“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation to pass during my time in the legislature, and I applaud Senator Coghill for his leadership and willingness to work across the aisle. SB 64 is a smarter and safer approach that will save the state money and give Alaskans a shot at redemption and being productive, law-abiding citizens,” Senator Ellis said. “This is the result of years of hard work by my staffer Amory Lelake and Senator Coghill’s Judiciary Aide Jordan Shilling, Partners for Progress, Former DOC Deputy Commissioner Carmen Gutierrez, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and many more. I hope this is just the beginning of our work together for public safety and common sense approaches to corrections.”
For more information, contact Amory Lelake in Senator Johnny Ellis’ Office at 907.269.0169