I hope legislators will take a deep breath as they consider changes to last year’s carefully debated criminal justice reform law (Senate Bill 91). We need clear heads and decisions based on facts and evidence, not a rush to hasty action that throws out the proverbial baby with the bath water.
SB 91 was not perfect, and may well need some immediate adjustments, but it would be a huge mistake to overreact by repealing the entire law. There are many positive aspects to SB 91 reforms, some of which have not even been implemented yet. Other aspects have not had adequate time to show their impact. There is plenty of evidence that the long-term effects of SB 91-type criminal justice reforms are positive and are needed in Alaska.
What is clear also is Alaska’s criminal justice system before the SB 91 reforms was failing in major aspects of its mission, including effective rehabilitation of offenders, and was burdening Alaskans with skyrocketing prison costs and disproportionate incarceration rates.
I understand public concern about increased crime, but it cannot be blamed on SB 91. That trend started in 2013, and more likely reflects years of deep budget cuts to law enforcement agencies and treatment programs across the state.
Legislators, please take a level-headed, judicious, and evidence-based approach to SB 54. Rushing to major changes to SB 91 now will leave Alaska’s criminal justice system in worse condition.
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.