Fix the SB91 mess – now

The state’s sadly deficient method of evaluating which criminal defendant gets bail and which one does not needs to be fixed – and now.

Why? The new Pretrial Risk Assessment system presents a real danger to the public.

The assessment algorithm, part of the infamous Senate Bill 91, depends on a computer weighing several factors to generate a number between one and 10 for a defendant indicating the likelihood they will show up for court hearings or commit new crimes. They are rated either low-, medium- or high-risk. It does not weigh out-of-state criminal history or pending criminal charges in a defendant’s overall score to determine mandatory release.

In a recent case, two suspected repeat car thieves were arrested. A loaded gun was found under the seat. Neither has convictions in Alaska, but one has a vehicle theft case pending from last year. Oh, and one of them was on the run to avoid a forgery case trial.

Yet, a few hours later, both qualified for mandatory release. One scored two out of 10; the other a zero. The court’s hands were tied but the judge set conditions for release. He ordered electronic monitoring, curfews and restrictions from guns for the pair, among other restrictions.

Make no mistake, armed accused car thieves riding around, dodging cops to avoid being arrested to stand trial for forgery or vehicle theft are not nice people. They present a danger to the public.

Surely, you remember Jessica Malcolm. She is the California woman charged after a Jan. 27 midday gunfight between two groups outside the Northway Mall, near a trampoline park frequented by children and families.

When arrested, she possessed a Glock .45-caliber handgun and a 30-round magazine. She was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, a class C felony. She had been in Alaska for only two weeks.

Despite an earlier felony conviction in California, Malcolm scored zero under the algorithm and she qualified for mandatory release. She then missed two scheduled court hearings. She, too, is a danger to the public.

The current release process makes a mockery of the justice system. While lawmakers in Juneau argue over this or that, they should turn their attention to fixing their mess and they should to it today because the public is getting sick and tired of the ongoing nonsense that daily endangers every man, woman and child in the state.

If they persist in doing nothing, they should expect more than a little pushback from angry constituents.


3 Responses to Fix the SB91 mess – now

  1. Peter Pritchard March 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

    Great article by Suzanne Downing on the subject, no legislative mandate or regulations to support it. Apparently another progressive social experiment without science to back it…talk about unintended consequences…

  2. John London March 11, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Short of getting a Joe Arpio type individual in command, not a dam thing of consequence will happen, of that, I can assure you!

  3. Observer March 13, 2018 at 12:01 am

    The Criminal Justice Commission and the Legislature pressed ahead with SB 91 based on out-dated data. The Pew recommendations were based on the assumption that the crime rate was steady or even declining. In fact, in 2015, when SB 91 was approved, the crime rate was already climbing.

    What happens when you throw softer penalties and relaxed standards for pre-trial release at a drug-fueled increasing crime rate? The answer to that question is the worst crime in all 50 states. Thank you Representative Claman!

    Worst of all, the Criminal Justice Commission and the Legislature now refuse to own up to their error. This is going to take some time to fix.


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