Friday, October 13, 2017

SB91, Anchorage Assembly, Public Anger Over Crime

I went to the Assembly public hearing Saturday October 8, 2017 to allow the public to give their opinions on Senate Bill 91 which was intended to curb the rise in prison population by cutting back many of the penalties for low level crime and by increasing rehabilitation for those convicted.  
Dick Traini
This is a state law and hearings were set in Juneau, but Anchorage Assembly chair Dick Traini felt most people wouldn’t testify in Juneau and had a special session in Anchorage which was videotaped     
The pictures are most of the people who testified when I was there.  I just wanted people to get a sense of the number of folks and a sense of what they looked like.  But I must say that a number of folks surprised me and reminded me not to judge people by appearances.    Everyone was civil, most were pretty rational and they focused on the facts of their experience with crime and the police response.

I missed the first 20 minutes or so, but what I heard was a lot of . . . anger was there, but mostly it was frustration.

Frustration that the reduced penalties of SB91 for many crimes under $1000 had been put in place, but not the rehabilitation.  So criminals know that nothing can happen to them, that police won’t bother for low level crimes.  Two different people told stories of people regularly taking power tools from big box stores and just walking out and employees are told not to do anything.  They have to just watch them get in their cars and go.  The speakers said this went to barter for drugs and/or other items.  One big box store employee said it happens daily and losses have been in the $800,000 per year range.

Lots of people complained about home break-ins and stolen cars where police didn’t come for hours.  Where they are told on the phone, “There’s nothing we can do.”

There was concern that sex workers wouldn’t report crimes because they, not the criminals would be arrested.

There was also testimony  from people who had served time or the children had and the importance of good rehabilitation to their lives.

Amy Demboski got credit from some for recognizing these problems early on.  And she said she wasn’t for abolishing SB 91, but for fixing it.

One man said there were three things that needed to be done:
1.  Rebuild Neighborhood watch
2.  Put God back into schools
3.  Bring back the death penalty

Most people were rational, had facts, and recognized this was a complex problem .  A few just wanted the repeal of SB 91, but most wanted it fixed - most notably that people convicted of crimes get rehabilitation, job training, and hope and help to find employment when they got out, so they aren't forced back to crime and drugs or alcohol.

There were maybe 100-150 people who were in the chambers during the 4 hour session.  Not that many, but they were all very passionate.  The Assembly listened carefully, sometimes asked questions.

During a break, I asked if there were any police in the room to hear the anger toward the police for not showing up for hours and for saying, “Our hands are tied, there’s nothing we can do” about people who committed crimes.  Later, Assembly Member Chris Constant said there had been a representative of the police department there for a while.

This past Tuesday, the Assembly passed a resolution that didn't call for a repeal of SB91, but did call for fixing it.  From KTUU:
"All members but Amy Demboski voted for changes only, specifically an increase in funding for alcohol and drug treatment, probation, police, corrections officers, and prosecutors.
“I’m afraid if we say repeal this it will not be revisited. I think these were very courageous legislators who did this and I don’t know that we have that now. After seeing this beat up no one is going to touch it again.
We’ll be back to a system that has simply failed and wasn’t working,” said Assembly Member John Weddleton.
The resolution also recommends restoring probation limits for some misdemeanor offenses, time that was cut down to less than a year under SB91. When it came to recommending a full repeal all members but Demboski felt it was better to fix what exists today."

1 comment:

  1. "Everyone was civil, most were pretty rational and the focused on the facts of their experience with crime and the police response."

    Appreciate the post regarding SB91, crime, etc.

    Thank you


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