Lawmakers respond to controversial component of bill to reduce prison population
Alaska’s prison population is growing nearly three times faster than its resident population, according to the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission’s December 2015 report. It’s findings lead to a criminal justice reform initiative that’s now working its way through the legislature, SB 91/HB 205.
It is expected to save the state more than $400 million over the next ten years. But part of the bill includes softening sentences, in some cases, allowing for no jail time even in crimes where someone was killed.
When asked whether the measure was fair, Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R) Anchorage, chair of the House Judiciary Committee replied, “that’s an interesting question. I mean, there’s no way that you’re gonna bring back the life. You want to show societal opprobrium, but something that’s done simply for vengeance, that ultimately may not make sense.”
LeDoux says she thinks felony sentences that may not carry jail time under the bill still carry community condemnation.”I mean you end up with a felony, that’s condemnation in and of itself,” said LeDoux.
Senator Bill Stoltze (R) Chugiak disagrees. It’s a part of the bill he wouldn’t accept. “That’s a non-starter for me,” said Stoltze.
Stoltze says there are many individual problems with the bill, that should be addressed in separate, individual pieces of legislation. He worries they may be buried in a bill now that’s “too big not to pass.”
“Frankly, on a bill it’s just not identifying potential cost savings, we ought to identify every consequence of the bill and be willing to accept those consequences,” said Stoltze.
SB 91 moved out of the Senate State Affairs Committee, which Stoltze chairs, earlier this month. He says that doesn’t mean he agrees with the measure as currently proposed. “We did as many changes, we certainly left a trail of concerns and hoped that other committees would continue to address them and I think some of them are catching up,” said Stoltze.
Sen. John Coghill (R) North Pole, sponsor of SB 91, declined an interview with KTVA to discuss the changes in sentencing laws.
“It’s in my opinion that this bill works for criminals and against victims. And it doesn’t just seem unfair to me or to other victims, it seems unfair to society,” Dusenbury Shannon told members of the House Judiciary Committee.
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