Over the last 15 years, Alaska has increased its corrections spending by almost 87%. By 2007, Alaska had five times the prison population that they had had in 1981, and spending had doubled. A significant, contributing factor to this population surge was the incredibly high recidivism rate, which places Alaska as a state with one of the worst recidivism rates in the country.
In 2014, former Governor Sean Parnell (R) signed legislation that aimed to increase the treatment and rehabilitation of non-violent offenders and established a Criminal Justice Commission, helping facilitate these non-violent offenders who went through rehabilitation back into the state. Under former Governor Bill Walker (I)’s leadership in 2016, a measure was passed to prioritize prison space for violent offenders, expand discretionary parole capacity, and strengthen probation and parole supervision. The bill also intended to reinvest almost $100 million into critical needs, which includes pretrial supervision, substance abuse programs, reentry support, and violence prevention programming and victim services.
However sentencing reform was passed in 2016, Alaska lawmakers reversed many reforms and punished certain crimes more severely. Now because of this legislation, sentences are longer, which makes taxes higher. Lawmakers should be focused on cutting costs and improving public safety; instead, Alaska lawmakers are increasing costs and locking up nonviolent criminals for an unnecessarily long time.
Alaska should be focusing its efforts on reducing recidivism through rehabilitation programs and work release programs for nonviolent offenders. By focusing on proactive efforts such as those, the prison population would decline, taxpayer dollars would be saved, and society would be safer.
Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.