Reality Check: Get out of jail free!
Has anybody seen Jessica Malcolm? She’s the 26-year-old Californian arrested a couple of weeks ago while visiting family in Anchorage. She was arrested along with others after a gunfight outside a trampoline park at the Northway Mall.
Police seized a Glock-45 and a 30-round magazine in her waistband.
The last time we saw Malcolm was at her arraignment, where she was charged with misconduct involving weapons. She’s the poster child du jour for another obvious hole in the state’s criminal justice reform net. Under the state’s new way of determining if a suspect is a flight risk, the Californian was judged to be low risk, given a hearing date and released.
Facing a sentence of five years and a fine of up to $50,000 if convicted, Malcolm was a no-show at her next hearing. Apparently, the court system didn’t see that coming.
As KTVA’s Daniella Rivera has covered so effectively, the court now uses a so-called risk assessment tool. It uses a computer-generated form that evaluates a suspect’s criminal history and then uses an algorithm to determine their flight risk.
But it’s got one glaring problem: it doesn’t take into account a suspect’s criminal activity outside Alaska. Malcolm, for example, was already a convicted felon in California and not allowed to carry a gun.
But in Alaska, she had a clean slate, and the computer rated her a “zero” risk factor.
It’s unclear who started the shooting-- and even who did the shooting-- but the act of cutting Malcolm loose is like offering a “get-out-of-jail-free" card if you’re a felon from out of state.
This assessment tool was an original part of Senate Bill 91. The criminal justice reform bill that was so full of loopholes, lawmakers had to reform the reform package in special session.
But, apparently, they missed this loophole. Which kind of makes you wonder what else we’ve missed.
The governor has introduced a bill that would give judges more discretion to deviate from the tool and consider out of state felony convictions-- in other words, let judges be judges.
As for Jessica Malcolm, she’ll get another chance to appear at a hearing next Tuesday-- and the computer says she’ll show up.
John's opinions are his own and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
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