In December, the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) announced a comprehensive set of data-driven recommendations for the upcoming legislative session designed to reduce recidivism, hold offenders accountable, and control the state’s prison growth.
If adopted, the reforms will reduce the state’s average daily prison population by 21 percent over the next 10 years and save the state $424 million.
The recommendations come after the ACJC engaged in a six-month study of Alaska’s sentencing and corrections systems, analyzing data, evaluating innovative policies and programs from other states, and reviewing research on what works to reduce recidivism, with technical assistance provided the Crime and Justice Institute’s Len Engel, Melissa Threadgill and Sam Packard as part of CJI’s work with the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Alaska’s unified jail and prison population has grown by 27 percent over the past decade, nearly three times faster than the state’s resident population. This rapid growth spurred the opening of the state’s newest correctional facility – Goose Creek Correctional Center – in 2012, costing the state $240 million in construction funds. Despite this growth in the prison population and spending on corrections, the data showed that Alaskans are not getting a good public safety return on their investment: nearly two out of every three inmates who leave Alaska’s prisons return to prison or jail within three years.
The Commission’s proposed recommendations would:
- Implement evidence-based pretrial practices;
- Focus prison beds on serious and violent offenders;
- Strengthen supervision and interventions to reduce recidivism;
- Ensure oversight and accountability; and
- Advance crime victim priorities.