JUNEAU -

Lawmakers are taking on a corrections reform bill aimed at addressing Alaska's surging prison population.

The sponsors of Senate Bill 64 say it implements proven practices to reduce recidivism and cut the cost of corrections while maintaining public safety.

According to the Department of Corrections two-thirds of the state's ex-convicts will return to prison, a rate is higher than any other state. 

Some lawmakers believe alcohol is a gateway drug to more serious crimes, but they recognize that's not necessarily the only factor.

"Generally though, people have a mental illness, that's untreated, or they have a drug or alcohol abuse problem that is untreated,” said Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage).

Allowing first time DUI offenders to serve their mandatory three day sentence with an ankle bracelet, instead of in jail, is one idea. The method is currently being tried in Anchorage.

Other components of the bill include twice a day testing for those awaiting trial or on probation for alcohol and drug offenses, plus baring the probation department from sending someone back to prison for a minor violation.

"Can we have a system that allows for redemption? I think we can,” said Senator John Coghill (R-North Pole). “But it has to be under a controlled environment, where you prove it. You do treatment, and you don't go back drinking."

Other parts of the bill would raise the felony threshold for theft from $500 to $1,000 to account for 36 years of inflation and in certain circumstances, give offenders credit for time served while in residential treatment facilities.