Jordan Shilling, aide to Sen. John Coghill, talks about the meaning of justice during a hearing on an omnibus crime bill designed to overhaul the state's criminal justice system, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska.  The bill is being heard by Senate Finance committee which discussed reinvestment options for the money that could be saved by reducing the state's prison population. At left is Brenda Stanfill, of Fairbanks, Alaska, an advocate for victim's rights on the Alaska's Criminal Justice Commission. (AP Photo/Rashah McChesney)

Jordan Shilling, aide to Sen. John Coghill, talks about the meaning of justice during a hearing on an omnibus crime bill designed to overhaul the state's criminal justice system, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska. The bill is being heard by Senate Finance committee which discussed reinvestment options for the money that could be saved by reducing the state's prison population. At left is Brenda Stanfill, of Fairbanks, Alaska, an advocate for victim's rights on the Alaska's Criminal Justice Commission. (AP Photo/Rashah McChesney)

Bill: Keep criminals from returning to jail

JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at preventing criminals from repeatedly returning to jail.

The measure is part of a sweeping criminal justice reform bill sponsored by North Pole Sen. John Coghill.

The legislation will be the focus of several Senate Finance Committee meetings as lawmakers address the costs and savings contained in the bill, which aims to reduce the state’s average daily prison population.

The bill has been making its way through the state Senate for more than a year as Coghill works to implement reforms suggested by a state criminal justice commission.

According to data gathered by the commission, the state’s prison population has grown three times faster than its resident population over the past decade. In 2014, the state spent more than $327 million and housed more than 5,200 inmates. Absent reform, according to the report, Alaska will surpass its current prison-bed capacity by 2017.

Jordan Shilling, a legislative aide for Coghill, told members of the committee that reinvesting money saved by reducing the prison population into programs designed to reduce recidivism rates, is crucial for lasting change.

“The goal of this is not just to reduce costs,” Shilling said. “It’s to invest in strategies that we know are working, to reinvest in things that reduce crime.”

The Office of Management and Budget provided a proposal that would reinvest funds into pretrial programs and grants for offender programs and victims services. The office estimates the state would save $49.8 million through 2021 if it follows reforms contained in the bill and reinvests according to the plan.

According to the proposal, the state would need to invest $5.8 million into Department of Corrections’ treatment and pretrial services and parole board staffing. Another $5 million would be used for community-based treatment, prevention, re-entry and services for victims in the first year.

State spending increases to a total of $90.5 million over the next five years according to the proposal, but that money would be offset by the savings contained in the bill.

According to the proposal, the state would reduce its prison population by nearly 300 beds by next year, saving about $12.5 million. By 2018, another 1,366 beds would be emptied bumping the savings up to $20.7 million.

The committee will again take up the bill on Wednesday.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 19

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, Feb. 23, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, speaks in favor of House Bill 143 on Friday. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves relaxed environmental rules for ‘advanced recycling’

Applies to facilities using high heat or chemicals to turn plastic garbage into raw materials.

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon (right) discusses the Juneau School District’s financial crisis with school board Vice President Emil Mackey (right) and City Attorney Robert Palmer during a meeting Thursday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Meetings to comment on Assembly’s proposed $9.6M of help to school district scheduled next two Mondays

Plan includes $4.1 million no-interest loan, picking up “shared costs” this year and next.

A crowd overflows the library at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Thursday night as school board members meet to select a consolidation option to help resolve the Juneau School District’s budget crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
School district leaders approve putting grades 9-12 at JDHS, 7-8 and HomeBRIDGE at TMHS

Elementary schools will be K-6; Marie Drake, Floyd Dryden to close this fall if plan gets final OK.

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives celebrate the passage of a sweeping education bill on Thursday. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
House passes $680 BSA increase, with other education provisions

Bill now returns to Senate, which must pass it unchanged before it can head to the governor’s desk.

House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage, speaks during Thursday night’s floor debate on an education bill. (Screenshot from akl.tv livestream)
House approves $680 BSA increase, extra support for charter schools in education bill

Bill passes by 38-2 vote, Senate expected to concur with changes after days of negotiations.

Most Read