Alaska skyline

In June, Alaska’s state leaders, Governor Bill Walker, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Chenault, Senate President Kevin Meyer and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Dana Fabe, launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

They enlisted the assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute at CRJ in an effort to develop fiscally sound, data-driven and evidence-based sentencing and corrections policies.

This summer, CJI staff Len Engel and Melissa Threadgill traveled north – way north – to kick off Phase One of the Justice Reinvestment process in Alaska with colleagues from the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Over the past decade, Alaska’s unified jail and prison population has grown by 27% — nearly three times faster than the state’s resident population. Alaska currently spends more than $330 million annually on corrections, up 50 percent since 2005. Despite these expenditures, nearly two out of every three inmates who leave Alaska’s prisons return within three years.

At the invitation of Alaska state leaders, the Pew-CJI team will provide technical assistance to the state as it launches a comprehensive review of the Alaska criminal justice system, helping the state to develop a set of data-driven reforms to better protect public safety while controlling corrections costs. The team will work with Alaska criminal justice administrators and political leaders and leaders from various organizations over the next eight months as they examine the drivers of the state’s prison population, the policies and practices that are affecting the population and criminal justice outcomes and develop policy reforms to reduce unnecessary prison growth and improve public safety.