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Alaska's Pretrial Transformation

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2018
5 pages
This paper describes the major changes in Alaska's pretrial system as a result of the state's participation in the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA's) Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).
Over the past decade, the number of pretrial detainees in Alaska nearly doubled, fueling a steady growth in the state's prison population, which contributed to high financial and human costs. Alaska lacked the tools, such as pretrial supervision and a risk-assessment instrument, which could balance public safety and defendant's rights. Under JRI funding, data analysis exposed the ineffectiveness and high cost of Alaska's existing pretrial system; and new, evidence-based policies were developed. In July 2016, Governor Bill Walker signed legislation that established major changes in Alaska's pretrial system. They went into effect January 1, 2018. The new pretrial system requires use of a pretrial risk assessment to determine the likelihood a defendant will fail to appear in court or be re-arrested before trial. The state switched from a primarily monetary bail system to an emphasis on a defendant's pretrial risk to public safety. A new Pretrial Enforcement Division was established under the Department of Corrections to administer risk assessment and supervise defendants during the pretrial period. Alaska will evaluate the new pretrial policies after 1 year of operation to test its implementation and cost effectiveness. Based on such performance evaluations, improvement in Alaska's pretrial system will continue.