The word “attempt” became the center of debate for a time at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting Monday night.
The question was whether that word was too vague to be included into the city’s criminal code. Don Habeger of the Juneau Reentry Coalition, a non-profit group which seeks to lower recidivism rates among the formerly incarcerated, raised the concern.
At issue was the wording of the proposed change to the municipal code which read, “a person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if, with intent to commit a crime, the person engages in conduct which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that crime.”
Habeger said the word would create a burdensome environment for exconvicts, which would keep them tied to the criminal justice system and unable to fully shake their criminal past.
Habeger argued that “attempt” was a vague term that would allow law enforcement to charge someone who hadn’t committed a crime based on a perceived intent.
Several members of the assembly rebuked this interpretation, saying that police often come across people who have not yet committed a crime but that had taken several steps. Assembly member Wade Bryson said that laws under SB 91 forced people to wait until they were victims in order for police to take action.
“The citizens of Juneau are done being victims,” Bryson said.
The proposed updates to the criminal code are meant to bring the city in line with changes made at the state level in July under House Bill 49. That bill reversed many of the changes made by the controversial Senate Bill 91.
SB 91, passed in 2016, significantly reduced sentencing for nonviolent crimes in an effort to save the state money, but the bill was blamed when crime spiked.
Assembly member Loren Jones introduced an amendment that would have removed “attempt” from the ordinance, but after testimony from municipal attorney Robert Palmer III, that amendment failed.
Palmer told the Assembly that “it is not the intent of the city to add additional burdens” to the public. Palmer said his department would take into account the particular circumstances of an individual being charged. He said sentencing would not be so punitive as to create addition barriers to re-entry, such as excessive fines.
Palmer’s testimony seemed to satisfy Habeger as well. Habeger told the Empire in an interview that he felt Palmer “clearly articulated policy that the assembly heard, and they accept.”
Another delay on the JACC ordinance
An ordinance to allocate $4.5 million toward grant funding for the Juneau Arts and Culture Center was tabled at the beginning of the meeting, with city manager Rorie Watt saying members of the public found that ordinance confusing in light of upcoming elections.
On the ballot for the upcoming Municipal Elections on Oct. 1 is Proposition 3, which would advise the city on whether to allocate funds for a new JACC.
That’s according to deputy city manager Mila Cosgrove.
“The ballot measure will advise the assembly; the ordinance would set up the funding mechanism,” Cosgrove told the Empire.
The Assembly will take up the ordinance at its next meeting on Oct. 14. This is the second time the Assembly has deferred an ordinance funding the JACC.
See the Empire’s live coverage here.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.