Amber Batts is to be paroled November 14, 2017. Amber was charged in Alaska with sex trafficking for managing a consensual adult massage / escort agency. Her blog “How We Rise” offers thoughts on Women, Prison and Re/Entry.
Here she is writing op/ed on Alaska Senate Bill 91: A Bill for improving criminal sentencing practices and criminal justice practices, including rehabilitation and restitution. Senate Bill 91: Summary of Policy Reforms | Justice Center | University of Alaska Anchorage:
Blaming Senate Bill 91 seems to be the easy catch all when crime appears to be spiraling and nothing is being done. I noticed this as I skimmed the Facebook group “Juneau Crime” and saw how crime in my home town has taken a twisted turn. I mean, no names to be used, but a member of one of the bad ass families in Juneau had something stolen and no one was beat up for it. Instead, JPD was called and nothing was done. Frustrating to say the least. What does this mean? Well, one of two things to me.1 – That thinking a posse could and should be formed to beat down the person who took the item means I am thinking as a criminal myself, rationalizing that an injustice allows me to act as such. I am working on that. Hey, they say awareness is the first step to changing. 2 – How did we get here? Is SB 91 really to blame?
To answer those questions I sat down and did some reading, some research and looked within and around me. I attended the Recovery Summit held in Palmer [Alaska] last month, and I was thrilled. Addiction, recovery and reentry all within the same sentence. I think of those as the Release Triad. The only other time those issues have been brought together was when I was incarcerated, during the Success Inside & Out Conference. Since 2006 the Success Inside and Out Conference has been held at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center each October. The conference was created as a pilot program by the National Association of Women Judges to ensure that women prisoners receive equal treatment.
Because of the smaller numbers of women in prison populations, the economies of scale can work against them, and they may not receive the same re-entry support services as men when they prepare to leave the institutions and return to their communities. As judges, we see first hand the need to stop the revolving door into our courtrooms, and we recognize that a woman prisoner’s simple desire to succeed upon release may not be enough. Full LINK here. It had seemed that before SB 91 was passed, the conversation of the Release Triad was forgotten as the prison gates closed behind upon release.
What does SB 91 mean to those in the community?
I have read many remarks on social media about the frustration felt by the general public regarding thefts. SB 91 seems to be the easy blame for changing, when in fact, it isn’t much different than what we had before the criminal justice overhaul.
For instance: Theft Offenses – ak_practitioner_guide_2016-11-21
Sections 6-15, 8-23, 25, 93, eff. July 11, 2016
S.B. 91 increases the felony threshold value for theft offenses from $750 to $1,000 and requires the level to be adjusted every five years to account for inflation. The legislation also eliminates use of incarceration as a sanction for theft under $250 (first two offenses), and limits the use of incarceration to 5 days suspended imprisonment and six months of probation for third and subsequent shoplifting offenses. Before SB 91, theft was a 0-90 days sentence. (see additional details on page 12).
What does SB 91 mean to those incarcerated? Resources! Plainly put, the availability of resources for change. For recovery, if needed and wanted. For hope. Recovery is connection to self, loved ones, society. Connecting to community resources, self-help resources, is where it begins. Addiction is disconnection. Recovery is only the starting point.
The long view of the Release Triad? Everyone agrees on one thing: Prevention. Prevention of crime is the best deterrent. When I attended the Recovery Summit I saw and heard first hand of how over prescribing opioid medications went hand in hand with addiction. Propagated by Big Pharma. Some doctors have called bullshit on this practice and there is a call to responsibility being brought forth. The new trend? Responsible medication prescription by doctors who don’t prescribe for higher patient scores. The medical community is taking notice and now reprimanding doctors who over prescribe. Not creating laws that further criminalize people. I heard at the Recovery Summit the keys to this. So simple, yet so complex. Empower, educate, engage. Reducing recidivism must include peer support. We do recover. Community support can be found in various rooms. Celebrate Recovery meetings, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to name a few. Peer support was prevalent at the Recovery Summit. Hope dealers, those who know first hand the feelings of hopelessness, and many others who also understand the feeling of being forgotten as the prison gates close upon release.
With SB 91, all seem to be held to a higher degree of action. From vivitrol shots to peer support, there are multiple tools the criminal justice system can put into place for both prevention and supervision to form a safety net. SB 91 is still new. Plainly put, it is comparable to a young child, with boundless energy and good intentions. Only after time will we see how this develops into a mature and intelligent design of methods aimed at reducing crime and unnecessary incarceration rates, which honestly, we all pay for in one way or another. Only after time will we see what the cost is. We know the cost of incarceration, lets give SB 91 a chance to show what the value of reform is.
Amber has a poll on her “How We Rise” WordPress. Visit her site. Take her poll:
Link here: https://amberbattsblog.com/2017/07/17/892/
Question Will Be: What do you find is the greatest need right now for prisoner re-entry?
- Housing assistance
- Employment assistance
- Early release from probation
- Over haul in sentencing guidelines
- Reduction in sentenced offenders – early release
- Better utilization of halfway houses
This Is How We Rise: My story of prosecution, incarceration and recovery from incarceration.