The ‘War on Criminals’ is slightly cheaper in early years under compromise, nearly same in the long run

Palmer Correctional Center (Photo by Department of Corrections).

Before the House voted on the compromise for the special session’s crime bill on Monday night, they heard a rundown of the changes. The legislation is still based on the Senate’s sweeping proposal with some of its edges blunted.

But what they didn’t hear before casting the 36-2 vote was how the price tag on the compromise differed from the Senate’s proposal.

Instead of costing Alaska a projected $101.3 million over the first two years, the compromise on House Bill 49 would cost $92.2 million over the first two years. It would still require the reopening of the Palmer Correctional Center to handle the increased prisoner population expected due to the tougher penalties.

The biggest change in cost comes from the Palmer Correctional Center in order to allow for a phase-in for the facility while it undergoes the necessary renovations. According to the fiscal note, this $3.5 million reduction comes at the request of the Legislature.

The long-term yearly cost is nearly unchanged. The cost in year three would go from the Senate’s $58.2 million down to $57.75 million a year. The long-run annual difference is about $500,000 under the Senate’s proposal.

That’s because even with the compromise slightly easing off penalties for first-time convictions, the compromise is expected to put nearly the same number of people behind bars as the Senate version did.

The difference in the first year is 30 inmates, but the average in the long run is about 10 fewer inmates on average.

Estimated increase to the average daily prisoner population

Bill Version FY 20 FY 21 FY 22 FY 23 FY 24 FY 25
Senate 771 1,086.6 1,119.1 1,120.4 1,128.1 1,132.6
Compromise 742 1,049.8 1,110.3 1,111.6 1,117.2 1,120.1
Difference 29 36.8 8.8 8.8 10.9 12.5

According to the fiscal notes, the current average daily prisoner population sits at 4,314 inmates and the system’s current capacity is 4,664 inmates. There’s currently extra space for 350 inmates in the current system and bringing the Palmer Correctional Center online would add about 503 beds.

That means the state would already run out of beds for inmates in the second year, forcing the state to either consider constructing additional prisons or to restart the controversial practice of sending inmates to for-profit prisons in the Lower 48.

Legislators have been critical of this practice, likening it to “crime school,” and rejected a proposal to restart the practice in Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s operating budget.

Fairbanks Democratic Reps. Grier Hopkins and Adam Wool raised these issues when they outlined their opposition to the measure on Monday night.

“After a while increasing sentences have a diminishing return,” Wool said. “Locking people longer, more easily, giving up more felonies has been shown to increase crimes because it breaks up families, gives people more education in prison to be better criminals. That’s where we are now. We are increasing sentences seemingly on an emotional level.”

He argued that a real solution to Alaska’s crime rates is in drug addiction treatment.

It’s a provision that’s largely absent from House Bill 49. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said like with Senate Bill 91 she’s still concerned about the lack of effort to address substance abuse in House Bill 49. While other legislators have pledged to work on substance abuse during the interim, Wilson said she’s skeptical and won’t wait. She plans to begin to hold hearings in the House Finance Committee during this special session.

“Now we’re talking about steps again,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s on record that we’re going to spend over $50 million. We’re going to open up Palmer, it still won’t be enough so we’re going to be building a prison or taking people out of state if we do not make sure we’re not taking care of treatment.”

The Senate has not yet taken up a vote on the compromise legislation. Senate leadership has indicated that it will hold a vote on the matter after Memorial Day.

Other notes

It appears that the updated fiscal notes consolidate the costs for the health care of the additional inmates under a single fiscal note. It results in a drop in population management and an increase in health and rehabilitation services. Between the two changes, the state sees the decrease of about $500,000 per year.

Cost of the compromise

All the costs are in thousands of dollars so a comma means millions.

Department Agency Allocation FY 20 FY 21 FY 22 FY 23
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Office of Public Advocacy $694.70 $694.70 $694.70 $694.70
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Public Defender Agency $1,300.90 $1,300.90 $1,300.90 $1,300.90
Administration DMV DMV $34.40 $14.40 $14.40 $14.40
Corrections Administration and Support Information Technology $175.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management $5,711.10 $20,521.80 $23,438.20 $23,496.50
Corrections Population management Palmer Correctional Center $16,669.10 $14,137.40 $14,137.40 $14,137.40
Corrections Population management Statewide Probation and Parole $127.80 $127.80 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Parole Board $77.30 $77.30 $77.30 $77.30
Corrections Health and Rehab Services Physical health care $9,243.80 $13,381.90 $14,196.50 $14,212.70
Corrections 24-hour institutional utilities 24-hour institutional utilities $876.80 $876.80 $876.80 $876.80
HSS Children’s Services Family Preservation $73.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
HSS Juvenile Justice Probation Services $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Law Criminal Division Criminal Justice Litigation $1,602.70 $1,602.70 $1,602.70 $1,602.70
Public Safety Alaska State Troopers Prisoner Transportation $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Village Public Safety VPSO Program $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Criminal Justice IT system $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Labratory Services $342.50 $278.80 $278.80 $278.80
Transportation Administration and Support $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Judiciary Alaska Court System Trial Courts $1,136.50 $1,136.50 $1,136.50 $1,136.50

Cost of the Senate version

All the costs are in thousands of dollars so a comma means millions.

Department Agency Allocation FY 20 FY 21 FY 22 FY 23
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Office of Public Advocacy $694.70 $694.70 $694.70 $694.70
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Public Defender Agency $1,300.90 $1,300.90 $1,300.90 $1,300.90
Administration DMV DMV $34.40 $14.40 $14.40 $14.40
Corrections Administration and Support Information Technology $175.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Institutuion Director’s Office $11,078.10 $24,717.70 $26,286.60 $26,344.80
Corrections Population management Palmer Correctional Center $20,203.40 $14,137.40 $14,137.40 $14,137.40
Corrections Population management Statewide Probation and Parole $127.80 $127.80 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Parole Board $77.30 $77.30 $77.30 $77.30
Corrections Health and Rehab Services Physical health care $7,209.10 $11,451.90 $11,890.10 $11,906.40
Corrections 24-hour institutional utlities 24-hour institutional utlities $876.80 $876.80 $876.80 $876.80
HSS Children’s Services Family Preservation $73.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
HSS Juvenile Justice Probation Services $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Law Criminal Division Criminal Justice Litigation $1,602.70 $1,602.70 $1,602.70 $1,602.70
Public Safety Alaska State Troopers Prisoner Transportation $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Village Public Safety VPSO Program $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Criminal Justice IT system $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Labratory Services $342.50 $278.80 $278.80 $278.80
Transportation Administration and Support Statewide Planning $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Judiciary Alsaka Court Sytem Trial Courts $1,136.50 $1,136.50 $1,136.50 $1,136.50

Versions compared

Senate to compromise.

Department Agency Allocation FY 20 FY 21 FY 22 FY 23
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Office of Public Advocacy $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Administration Legal and Advocacy Services Public Defender Agency $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Administration DMV DMV $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Administration and Support Information Technology $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Institution Director’s Office -$5,367.00 -$4,195.90 -$2,848.40 -$2,848.30
Corrections Population management Palmer Correctional Center -$3,534.30 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Statewide Probation and Parole $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Population management Parole Board $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Corrections Health and Rehab Services Physical health care $2,034.70 $1,930.00 $2,306.40 $2,306.30
Corrections 24-hour institutional utilities 24-hour institutional utilities $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
HSS Children’s Services Family Preservation $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
HSS Juvenile Justice Probation Services $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Law Criminal Division Criminal Justice Litigation $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Alaska State Troopers Prisoner Transportation $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Village Public Safety VPSO Program $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Criminal Justice IT system $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Public Safety Statewide Support Labratory Services $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Transportation Administration and Support Statewide Planning $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Judiciary Alsaka Court System Trial Courts $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00

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