ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Anchorage Assembly on Saturday held public testimony for two proposed resolutions that would urge state legislators to develop a new plan for criminal justice reform in Alaska.
The move comes as lawmakers prepare to head back to Juneau on Oct. 23rd for the fourth special legislative session this year. On the agenda is Senate Bill 54, a crime reform bill aimed at fixing the many issues associated with its controversial predecessor Senate Bill 91.
The first of the two resolutions, submitted by assembly member Eric Croft (West Anchorage), asks the legislature to “strengthen public safety and to alter the effects” of SB91. A similar resolution, submitted by assembly member Amy Demboski (Eagle River/Chugiak), calls for a complete repeal.
Since it was passed in July of last year, many Alaskans have blamed SB91 for increasing crime rates. Of those that spoke in the assembly chambers Saturday morning, many felt that the bill has emboldened criminals by imposing weak sentences for many different offenses. Others felt the bill doesn’t prioritize enough resources for rehab facilities and other programs that help reduce recidivism in the prison system.
House minority leader Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) was one of three state legislators to attend Saturday's public hearing. She was also one of the lawmakers who voted against SB91 last year.
“We put the cart before the horse with SB91,” Millett told Channel 2. “We should have front-end loaded rehabilitation and mental illness safety nets. We should have had those in place before we did anything about decriminalizing any crimes or lessening penalties for criminals because if you don’t have the safety net, how are you going to expect change?”
The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the two resolutions at its regular Tuesday meeting.