This page was updated in January 2020 to note the conclusion of the state’s work with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.
In March 2015, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with Alaska to further the state’s criminal justice reform efforts. At the time, Alaska had seen dramatic increases in justice system costs, without the intended corresponding decrease in recidivism.
The state’s executive and legislative branches issued letters of support for, and commitment to, implementing the Results First approach in Alaska to identify and assess effective, evidence-based programs that could improve justice system outcomes and maximize the impact of limited tax dollars. In his letter, former Governor Bill Walker said, “Results First will add significant value to Alaska’s policymaking area of criminal justice expenditures.”
Results First worked with the Alaska Justice Information Center (AJiC), a resource center jointly funded by the state and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and housed within the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center.
In July 2016, AJiC published a complete inventory of state-funded adult criminal justice programs, including evidence of effectiveness and annual costs. In September 2017, the center supplemented its inventory report with cost-benefit analysis. These reports found that the majority of state-funded justice programs were backed by strong or promising evidence of effectiveness and that their projected benefits generally exceeded current costs. Some costs, however, were excessive, given the high premium for staffing and transportation in rural areas, as well as low numbers of clients enrolled in some programs.
In light of these findings, AJiC recommended that the state and its agencies examine the cost structure of such programs to improve cost-benefit ratios, ensure implementation fidelity, and expand capacity for programs with waitlists. The Alaska Department of Corrections adopted some of these recommendations, minimizing costs for one program by converting it to a telehealth model, expanding treatment participant slots for another, and making a correction for one program to align its duration with what is recommended in research.
AJiC also benefitted from its use of Results First tools, which allowed the organization to develop long-term recidivism estimates, track how offenders move through the criminal justice system, compare state programming with the best evidence, and more meaningfully engage with policymakers in conversations about leveraging evidence to inform programming.