|Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain|
|March 24, 2016
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are all saddened by the senseless injury and loss of life in the terrorist bombings on Tuesday morning in Brussels. My heart goes out to all whose family and loved ones were killed or injured by the horrendous attacks. Our thoughts are with the people of Belgium.
With the last day of the statutory 90-day session less than a month away, we have lots of work ahead. Addressing Alaska’s fiscal challenges remains the most important issue this session. Committees are considering bills and we are voting on bills and resolutions on the House floor. On the House Judiciary Committee, we are thoroughly evaluating House Bill 205, which will reform Alaska’s criminal justice system by improving public safety, cutting prison costs, and reducing recidivism among non-violent offenders. Over the last decade, Alaska’s prison population has grown 27%, the length of felony sentences has increased 31%, and the pre-trial prison population has increased 81%. But while these increased prison costs have steadily increased, we have not seen a reduction in the crime rates. I support these reform efforts and will work diligently to ensure that House Bill 205 improves public safety and Alaska’s criminal justice system for the better.
Fiscal Plan Update
On Wednesday, Governor Walker wrote a letter to lawmakers expressing his commitment to adopting a “complete solution to our fiscal situation.” Governor Walker explained that “continued draws from our reserves, without a solid plan toward self-sufficiency” is unacceptable. The Governor identified three requirements of a sustainable plan: reducing state spending, restructuring the Permanent Fund, and raising new revenues including a broad-based tax. Governor Walker concluded that these three requirements are “written in pen; how they all come together, however, is still very much in pencil.”
Like the substantial majority of our West Anchorage friends and neighbors, I support the Governor’s commitment to address cost savings and new revenue this year. I also share Governor Walker’s commitment to a responsible action plan for Alaska’s future. As the Legislature considers the nine different tax proposals recommended by the Walker-Mallott administration, I will continue to work with my colleagues to establish a complete solution to our fiscal challenges. We need a responsible action plan for Alaska, and we need it now.
Criminal Justice Reform and House Bill 205
In the last decade, Alaska’s prison population has grown by 27 percent, a rate almost three times faster than the growth of our resident population. Responding to this growth, in 2012, Alaska opened its newest correctional facility, Goose Creek Correctional Center, at a cost of $240 million. On July 1, 2014, Alaska’s prisons housed 5,627 inmates and the Department of Corrections’ operating budget was $327 million. Without justice reform, the upward trends of prison population growth will continue. As shown in the chart below, Alaska will surpass its current prison bed capacity in 8-10 years. And the increased prison population will result in at least $169 million in new prison costs. These cost considerations, coupled with Alaska’s high recidivism rate (two-thirds of inmates released from prison return within three years) led the Alaska Legislature to establish the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission.
Over a seven-month period, the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission reviewed Alaska’s pretrial, sentencing, corrections, and community supervision data and considered ways to effectively balance public safety, rehabilitation, and fiscal security in Alaska’s justice system. House Bill 205, referred to as the Crime Bill, was created to implement 21 policy recommendations given to the Legislature by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission. The recommendations focus on protecting public safety, holding offenders of crimes accountable for their actions, reducing the state’s average daily prison population, and reducing the cost of criminal justice in Alaska. The estimated savings from justice reform is $424 million over the next decade.
We must improve our criminal justice system, and HB 205 seeks to improve Alaska’s criminal justice structure by changes to pre-trial procedures, sentences, and community supervision and reinvestments in programs and treatment for offenders. We need to improve the current system: criminals are reoffending and public safety is not improving.
Upcoming Municipal Elections
Meet and Greet at the Rustic Goat
Please join me on Saturday, March 26th from 4-5pm at the Rustic Goat to discuss the Legislative session or other issues affecting our community. Coffee or tea is on me!
As always, please let us know if you have other suggestions or concerns.
Rep. Matt Claman
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