04/18/17 DPS PR# 17-007
Please Support SB 54 Amendments to Criminal Justice Reform
Last year, our legislature and Governor Walker enacted Senate Bill 91, broadly reforming our criminal justice system. Prior laws were not working as we had hoped. Evidence showed that long prison sentences did not reform criminals or make our communities safer in the long run. And most of those who were sentenced to prison became repeat visitors to our criminal justice system.
SB 91 significantly reduced prison sentences for all but the most serious crimes. Because most crimes involve substance abuse factors and more than 40% of our inmates have mental health issues, a primary goal of SB 91 was to incentivize low level offenders to seek treatment, rather than putting those people in prison.
But once SB 91 was enacted, our District Attorneys, prosecutors, Troopers and others began seeing that a few provisions undercut the treatment goals of SB 91 and negatively impacted public safety. With the support of Governor Walker, our departments suggested small changes to our criminal justice laws. The Senate just passed our proposed changes as part of Senate Bill 54, and that bill is now before the House.
What are our proposed amendments? There are a number of small tweaks, but we believe two are the most important: authorizing up to one year in jail for C-felonies and imposing a small amount of jail time for repeat thefts of less than $250.
Under SB 91, the maximum penalty for first time C-felonies was reduced from a maximum of two years to a maximum of probation with no jail time – the lowest sentencing range for such offenses in the country. To incentivize rehabilitation --indeed to authorize judges to order residential treatment in these cases -- the presumptive range must include active jail time. Authorizing zero to one year of jail time does not mean we will automatically return to incarceration as the primary tool to deal with first time felons. Rather, additional discretion in sentencing provides one more tool for our prosecutors and courts to incentivize treatment, address violent offenses where some jail time may be appropriate, and otherwise act on a case by case basis to protect the public.
SB 54 would also amend the law relating to theft in the fourth degree by allowing some jail time for a person’s second theft offense. The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission heard testimony from municipalities, law enforcement and others that the current structure that imposes no jail time no matter how many times the person commits the same offense is unworkable. Liquor stores and other small businesses are seeing the same people shoplift with impunity. People are picking up five, six, and seven offenses in a row because the current law has no deterrent effect. Many of these repeat offenders are drug addicts who are stealing to feed a habit. Addicted offenders fear any time in jail without access to drugs, so the threat of some jail time should reduce the number of these repeat offenses.
There were over 80 recommendations made by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission. More than 60 of them were adopted by the legislature and made into law in SB 91. Only a handful of them are being amended in SB 54. The small changes we are recommending will give the court the discretion to tailor appropriate sentences for each offense and will help criminal justice reform succeed overall.
For the record, we still support the major reforms in SB 91. And in fairness to SB 91, there are many compounding factors occurring with reduced resources in both our departments because of the fiscal crisis and the heroin epidemic causing addicts to steal, rob, and burglarize to feed their addiction. Our fiscal issues are paramount, but public safety cannot take a back seat. With these tweaks to criminal justice reform, we believe we will be able to make safer communities and get people into treatment that need it.
Please contact the House State Affairs Committee at Representative.Jonathan.Kreiss-Tomkins@akleg.gov and House Judiciary Committee at Representative.Matt.Claman@akleg.gov or your representative to let them know you want the legislature to consider and pass SB 54 this year.
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03/28/17 DPS PR #17-006
Joint Investigation in Kodiak Leads to Meth Lab
(KODIAK, Alaska) – On March 16, 2017 at approximately 1304 hours, Alaska State Troopers Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) received a report of a suspicious package shipped from California to a residence in Kodiak. Investigation revealed that the package contained approximately a half pound of methamphetamine. The total street value of the seized methamphetamine is approximately of $82,759.50.
On March 17, 2017, at approximately 1830 hours, investigators with the SDEU, Kodiak Police Department and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service made contact with a suspect at the business the package was addressed to be delivered. The contact resulted in successfully locating further evidence of drug trafficking and the arrest of Steven E. Stersic, 56 of Kodiak. Investigators obtained a search warrant for a property. During the service of the search warrant a Meth lab was discovered. As there was a health and safety risk associated with the lab, law enforcement agents participating in the search left the structure and secured the premises.
On March 18, 2017, at approximately 0900 hours, Alaska State Trooper personnel from Anchorage with clandestine lab certifications were picked up and transported to the Kodiak USCG Air Station. They ultimately responded to the business property, processed the scene and ultimately rendered the location safe to collect evidence. The personnel also was able to confirmation that the location was used as a meth lab. On March 23, 2017, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and Environmental Compliance Consultants arrived in Kodiak to oversee the seizure of hazardous materials.
On March 23, 2017, the Kodiak grand jury issued a true bill against Steve Stersic. The charges included four counts of Misconduct Involving a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree and a single count of Misconduct Involving Weapons in the Second degree. Stersic was released on bail $2,000 bail and third party custodian requirements on March 22, 2017.
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03/14/17 DPS PR #17-005
Scheme to Defraud and Forgery 2
On September 14, 2016, Investigators from the Alaska State Troopers, Bureau of Investigations, Financial Crimes Units appeared before the Anchorage Grand Jury and presented a complex check fraud, theft, and identify theft investigation. This investigation discovered four individual victims, five financial institutions, and numerous local businesses accrued a financial loss. The estimated financial loss exceeds $60,000.00 between March 2016 and June 2016. Nakisha Reed, age 36, of Anchorage, was indicted on one count of Scheme to Defraud, one count of Theft in the First degree, one count of Falsifying Business records, and 26 counts of Forgery in the Second Degree. Derrick Grandberry-Williams, age 40, of Anchorage, was indicted on one count of Scheme to Defraud, one count of Theft in the First degree, one count of Attempted Criminal Impersonation in the Frist degree, one count of Falsifying Business Records, five counts of Forgery in the Second Degree. Mia Stephens, age 18, of Anchorage, was indicted on three counts of Forgery in the Second degree and one count of Theft in the Second degree. Jeffery Debaere, age 41, of Anchorage, and Kyleen Erdman, age 33, of Anchorage, were both incited on two counts of Forgery in the Second degree and one count of Theft in the Second degree. As of 9/15/2016, all the defendants in this case were incarcerated.
On March 13, 2017, Grandberry-Williams, Reed, Stephens, and Debaere appeared before the Anchorage Court and entered guilty pleas on Forgery and Scheme to Defraud charges. Grandberry-Williams pled guilty to one count of Forgery in the Second Degree and was sentenced to five years in jail with two suspended, and two years of probation. Reed pled guilty to one count of Scheme to Defraud and was sentenced to six years in jail with four suspended, and five years of probation. Stephens pled guilty to one count of Forgery in the Second Degree and was sentenced to a two-year SIS with 90 days to serve. Debaere pled guilty to one count of Forgery in the Second Degree and was sentenced to 2.5 years with six months to serve and three years of probation. Restitution will be ordered at a later hearing. The fifth defendant, Erdman, withdrew her plea and her case is being set for trial.
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