SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Without Policy Reform, Alaska's Prison Population
to Double by 2030, Study Concludes
ISER Study Shows How to Lower Crime Rates and Save Money


February 02, 2009

An independent study on Alaska's correctional system concludes that the state must make significant policy changes to avoid staggering increases in Alaska's inmate population in the next twenty years.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) in Anchorage, was released today. ISER found that the number of inmates in Alaska's prisons will likely double by 2030 unless the state significantly increases its prevention, intervention, education and treatment programs soon.

"This study verifies that we can lower our crime rate and save millions of dollars and thousands of lives by investing now in prevention, rather than continually recycling people through prison," said Senator Hollis French, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who commissioned the study. "Education and substance abuse treatment programs ­ in prison, after prison and instead of prison ­ save the state as much as five times what they cost, and they reach the most people."

Senator French last year convened a state "Crime Summit" and invited Steve Aos, an economist with the Washington State Legislature, who has been pioneering the application of statistical analysis to rehabilitation efforts. As a result of Mr. Aos' presentation, Senator French sought a $50,000 appropriation in order to have ISER conduct a similar study here in Alaska. ISER examined the actual results of various treatment and education programs in terms of reducing recidivism. The study showed that Alaska's prison population is among the fastest growing in the US, with 5 times more inmates in 2007 than in 1981. Two-thirds of those who serve their sentences and are released commit new crimes.

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) said the study's findings raise important issues for the state. "In a state with epidemic rates of substance abuse and incarceration by repeat offenders, it makes all the sense in the world to expand cost-effective treatment programs for those prisoners while they are a captive audience," Ellis said.

According to the study's findings, "if the state spent an additional $4 million a year to expand programs it already has, the prison population in 2030 might be 10% smaller that projected ­ about 1,050 inmates." It costs about $42,000 per year to house an inmate in Alaska's prisons. "I think this study shows the value of a relatively small investment in education and prevention to save the state from a much larger expenditure on correctional facilities later," said French.



Source of News:

Alaska Senate Bipartisan Working Group


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska