Criminal justice reform may be coming to Alaska. After spending the summer collecting more information on efforts happening in other parts of the country, the Senate Judiciary Committee has started holding hearings again on their omnibus crime bill.
The legislation would raise the dollar-threshold for non-violent crimes like shoplifting and writing bad checks to be considered felonies. It would also set up a prisoner re-entry fund to help ex-convicts return to society, and it would create a criminal justice commission tasked with regularly reviewing the effectiveness of Alaska’s sentencing laws and making sure they’re in line with penalties in other states.
Sen. John Coghill, who chairs the Judiciary committee, says the bill has the potential to save the state money and improve public safety outcomes.
“We’re trying to say ‘We can’t afford to build another jail,” says Coghill.
Alaska has the worst recidivism rate in the country. Two-thirds of the state’s prisoners eventually go back after their release.
Watch yesterday’s committee meeting courtesy Gavel Alaska:
- Heli-skiing has long been a controversial topic in Haines. The interests of the industry often clash with people who live near heliports and don’t want the noise disturbing their peace and quiet. But there’s another group that’s impacted by helicopter noise: mountain goats.
- In the Northwest Arctic, caribou hunting has been contentious for years. Alaska’s largest herd continues to decline while tensions have emerged between rural subsistence users and outside hunters.
- From the Aleutian island of Akutan to the arctic village of Kiana, 13 communities have been crowned champions of a rural energy competition. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that it will help these communities cut their energy use by 15 percent by training local utility providers.
- It’s costing 14 percent more to take the ferry to and from the Lower 48. The higher fare is part of another round of tariff increases aimed at boosting income and equalizing rates across all routes.