- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Alaska lawmakers are considering rolling back some provisions of a criticized crime reform bill that passed last year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week heard comments on a senate bill that aims to fix problems members of law enforcement found in last year’s Senate Bill 91, which scaled back punishments for a number of low-level crimes in an effort to reduce prison populations, The Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/2maEpVw).

The Criminal Justice Commission is considering increasing the presumptive sentencing range for first-time Class C felony convictions from zero days to a year, among other increased sentences. Senate Bill 54 would also reverse last year’s law, which removed jail time for first and second-time convictions for thefts totaling less than $250.

Committee members said increasing the penalties will give judges more discretion during sentencing, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

“I like that it gives the flexibility to the judges and it does, I think, what we want, which is to find that balance,” said Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) of the changes in the Wednesday meeting.

In public hearings, supporters of SB 91 urged lawmakers to give the law more time to work in conjunction with reinvestment in treatment and diversion programs.

Law enforcement officials said otherwise.

Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik said his department has seen thefts increase since SB 91 reduced penalties. He said that any changes made to the criminal justice system needs input from law enforcement.

“If there were a preference, let’s bring law enforcement together on something so huge and reaching,” Mlynarik said.

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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