Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy fulfilled a campaign promise by signing legislation that replaces much of the state’s criminal justice reform effort known as Senate Bill 91, reports the Anchorage Daily News. That legislation, approved in 2016 in an effort to reduce the number of criminals who return to prison after release, has been blamed for contributing to a surge in crime statewide. As a candidate for governor, Dunleavy pledged to introduce legislation to repeal it. Dunleavy’s initial attempt faltered in the Alaska House, and lawmakers didn’t finish a compromise repeal-and-replace plan until a special session that began in May.
The resulting legislation increases prison sentences for lesser and nonviolent crimes. The state expects to put many more people in prison, and for longer terms, increasing costs. Thus far, funding for those increased costs has not been approved because of the legislature’s unfinished work on the state’s capital budget. The Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the signed bill as “legislation that returns Alaska to broken criminal justice policies that failed to reduce crime or keep Alaskans safe.” The ACLU said the bill “is bad policy, fraught with attacks on the rights and protections guaranteed to all Alaskans under the U.S. and Alaska constitutions,” and as a result of those attacks, “our elected leaders have all but guaranteed drawn-out and costly litigation against the state over parts of the bill.”