SUMMARY OF:A Sunset Review of the Office of the Governor, Alaska Criminal Justice Commission

Purpose of the Report

The audit was performed to determine if there is a continued need for the commission and whether its termination date should be extended. The commission is set to sunset June 30, 2021, and will have one year from that date to conclude its administrative operations.

Report Conclusions

Overall, the audit concluded the commission met its statutory responsibilities by analyzing the effects of sentencing laws and criminal justice practices on the criminal justice system, and recommending improvements. Additionally, the commission conducted specific studies and reported results, as required by law.

The commission was effective as an advisory agency from 2015 through 2017 and its recommendations served as the basis for comprehensive criminal justice reform passed in 2016 (SB 91). Further, its recommendations helped policy makers amend SB 91. However, beginning in 2018, criminal justice policy decisions were not rooted in commission recommendations and the commission’s effectiveness waned.

As of April 2020, the commission no longer routinely recommends improvements; however, it continues to analyze criminal justice data and evaluate the impact of commission recommendations and other changes on the criminal justice system. As required by statutes, several agencies submit data to the commission. The data is reviewed by commission staff, commission members, and/or other agencies under an agreement with the commission.

In accordance with AS 44.66.010(a)(12), the commission is scheduled to terminate on June 30, 2021. We do not recommend extending the commission’s termination date. Rather than extend the commission in its current form, the need for and expectations of a criminal justice advisory commission should be reevaluated. Although we recommend sunsetting the commission, we do not recommend terminating its data collection and analysis functions.

Objective evidence regarding the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and laws governing the system are critical to future policy decisions. Legislation will be required to maintain the commission’s data collection and analysis functions if the commission sunsets.

Findings and Recommendations

  1. The Alaska Judicial Council’s executive director should improve procedures to ensure commission meetings are properly publicly noticed and documented.