Many of us are lifelong prosecutors who have spent years in the trenches trying to do the best we can to keep Alaskans safe and seek justice. We work hard to try and get dangerous offenders off the street, get treatment for those who need it, and achieve the best outcome to protect the community. The current criminal laws tie our hands and keep us from achieving these important goals.
We thought it was important to speak out as those who prosecute crime. We know we, as a society, cannot control all the factors that cause crime. But, through our laws, we can control the range of outcomes and incentives available to cut down on the number of individuals that are re-offending. Right now, the law is not working.
Drug offenses are a good example. Substance abuse and drug addiction are at the core of much more than just drug offenses. We have to have the tools to deal with drug crimes comprehensively and nimbly, depending on the circumstances and the risk factors. Right now, there is effectively zero jail time for drug possession, which means there is zero incentive for an addict to try and get clean. This has to change.
This leads us to the risk assessment tool. Although it sounds good on its face, the actual implementation of the risk assessment tool has led to the release of individuals that present a significant public safety risk. What we know from experience is that there is a subset of offenders that just never learn. Judges need to have the flexibility to take all the information into account, including prior offenses, and determine what risk that offender poses to the community. And prosecutors need to have the tools to incentivize good behavior.
This is true of technical violations of conditions of probation as well. Under current law, no matter how many technical violations an offender commits, the punishment is generally three to ten days maximum. This means that an offender who commits a technical violation has free reign to commit as many more technical violations as they wish without further consequence so long as the additional violations occur before the court sanctions them for the first one. This provides no incentive to be on good behavior.
Another item important to highlight is the current loophole in our law that allows sex offenders from other states to come to Alaska and not register as a sex offender. We have enough problems with sex offenders as it is, and we shouldn’t be incentivizing sex offenders to move to our state.
We respectfully urge the legislature to take the crime bills currently moving through the legislature seriously and amend our laws to provide the tools and discretion necessary to let prosecutors, troopers, police and judges do their jobs.