At about the same time that Governor Walker released the state corrections report at his Anchorage office, the House Finance Committee listened to Pew senior associate Terry Schuster outline the data behind Alaska’s increase in prison population.
Schuster said the number of inmates has grown by 27 percent in the past decade, and unless policy changes are made, prison populations are likely to grow another 27 percent by 2024. Schuster says the reasons behind the growth can be traced to past policies:[
“One of the things that stands out to us, or the criminal justice commission, is when they look at statutory changes in the past ten years, one of those major changes has been increases in sentence length. So for felony offenders, presumptive sentence lengths have gone significantly up in just the last ten years, and we are seeing it in the data in terms of people staying in prison longer, so the population goes up. ”
Schuster says prison stays have increased across the board, due to legislative, judicial and parole board decisions. He says prison costs are the second fastest growing budget item in most states, behind Medicaid.