Must Read Alaska readers make a difference. Last week we learned that over 400 readers weighed in with the Alaska Parole Board and helped ensure that murderer Cordell Boyd stayed behind bars.
Today, we tackle of one of the most troubling aspects of SB 91 — the controversial criminal justice reform bill signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016.
Your help is needed to move an important set of fixes.
This is not wholesale reform of SB 91, but takes care of a disastrous loophole.
SB 150 and HB 295 strengthen the pretrial process, giving judges back some of the discretion they had in determining if a suspect should be held or released, and under what conditions.
The current process doesn’t even take into account a criminal’s out-of-state arrest record, something these bills seek to remedy. Alaska has gang members arriving from other states, committing serious crimes here, and getting released quickly because they have no prior Alaska arrest records. Yes, 80 percent of the criminals in this category are in Anchorage, but it is spreading across the state.
THE PROBLEM: THE CATCH-AND-RELEASE CLUB
SB 91 changed how courts set bail and release conditions, creating a “Catch-and-Release Club.”
Since Jan. 1, release decisions have been based on “risk level,” as determined by a pretrial services officer and an off-the-shelf risk assessment tool that the Department of Corrections must have found at the Dollar Store.
The officer’s bail and release decision limits judges’ discretion in setting bail amounts in some cases. Many career criminals are walking free.
SB 150 restores judges’ flexibility in considering a person’s out-of-state criminal history for those persons who fall into certain categories of serious crimes, but not for crimes like DUI.
SB 150 and HB 295 must be heardin their respective Judiciary Committees so this law can get signed before the summer crime season is upon us.
SB 150 was introduced by the governor in January and referred to Senate Judiciary. Sen. Coghill is chair of the committee.
HB 295is the same legislation that is dying in Rep. Matt Claman’s Judiciary Committee.
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This is an anti-crime swat team effort being spearheaded by Rebecca Logan, former candidate for Anchorage mayor, who gathered a group to get Anchorage, Mat-Su, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Kenai the help they need now.
“It’s critical to get this legislation passed and give the judges the discretion they need to make a good decision. If an MS-13 gang member comes before a judge covered with gang tattoos, and he or she has just been arrested for armed robbery, the judge needs to be able to make a decision on whether that person should be out on the street before trial, whether they will show up for their trial.” said Logan, who started “Advocates for Anchorage.”
“This would solve one of the hardest-to-understand parts of this mess. It would allow judges to be judges,” said Randy Ruedrich, who was among the 16 attending the organizational meeting Sunday night.
The group is concerned that although the city has three lobbyists, none has been tasked by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz with working on crime prevention law. It’s time for citizens to advocate for their own safety.