September 22, 2017

Anchorage, AK — Senator Mia Costello today announced she is flipping her position on the criminal justice reform package passed in 2016, Senate Bill 91 (SB 91), and now calling for its repeal.

“Last year, the Alaska Legislature passed, and Governor Walker signed into law, SB 91, which included countless valuable reforms to Alaska’s criminal justice system including: stiffer penalties on violent offenses like murder, improved services for crime victims, and expanded crime-reduction programs like violence prevention and substance abuse treatment,” said ACLU of Alaska’s Executive Director Joshua A. Decker.

This is why Governor Walker hailed SB 91 as:

“an historic reform of the state’s criminal justice system. The law advances data-driven, research-based policies to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety and curb corrections spending. It is projected to reduce the state’s prison population by 13 percent by 2024, saving the state $380 million.”

“As a member of both House and Senate majorities over the past seven years, Sen. Costello has played a key role in decimating public safety budgets and slashing the number of prosecutors and law enforcement officers in Alaska,” Decker Continued. “According to Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, that has resulted in over 7,000 cases, both misdemeanors and felonies, going unprosecuted.”

“Instead of owning up to this failure and doing the hard work of fixing public safety budgets with a fiscal plan that really improves public safety for all Alaskans, Sen. Costello is trying to hide behind a “tough on crime” platform that she knows full well the state doesn’t have the resources to enforce or the prison space to accommodate.

“It is easy to play to the crowd by saying we should lock up more of our people, but the truth is that policy doesn’t make us safer. What does it matter whether someone faces 3 months or 12 months of jail time if they know no one is there to investigate and prosecute the crime?

“SB 91 isn’t perfect, but there’s a reason it earned the backing of leaders in both political parties, Alaska’s attorney general, the Department of Corrections, and key representatives from the law enforcement community. It keeps the successful parts of our criminal justice system that worked and improves them by adding common-sense, evidence-based practices from proven experts in the field.

“The ACLU of Alaska looks forward to engaging in meaningful discussions with serious leaders on how to continue to improve Alaska’s criminal justice system, including SB 54 in the upcoming special session, but hollow political grandstanding of the sort we saw today is not helpful to that discussion.”

Contact: Casey Reynolds, ACLU of Alaska, (907) 715-2537, creynolds@acluak.org

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