Without Policy Reform, Alaska's
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
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
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,"
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