Alaska Justice Forum 21(1), Spring 2004

The Spring 2004  issue of the Alaska Justice Forum features articles on role of alcohol involvement in police patrol work, mentally ill inmates in U.S. and Alaska prisions, the state of state mental health funding to the  Alaska Department of Corrections, and measures that can be used in examining effectiveness of alcohol control policies in Alaska.

"Police Patrol and Public Alcohol Use in Anchorage" by Brad A. Myrstol

While questions remain concerning the causal role of alcohol use in crime, there is evidence to suggest that alcohol is at least implicated in a wide variety of crime, delinquency, and other undesirable conduct in Alaska. Less clear is the impact of alcohol on criminal justice agencies responsible for handling the problems associated with public alcohol use. This article presents preliminary findings from the Police Alcohol-related Services Study (PASS), which had as its objective an analysis of the role of alcohol involvement in police work. Among its findings: One out of every three minutes Anchorage Police Department patrol officers spend with members of the public is in the context of an alcohol-related event — more than 45 minutes per shift. Fourteen percent of all patrol shift time is devoted to alcohol-related events. Overall, this officer time may comprise expenditures of over five million dollars annually.

"Human Rights Watch: The Mentally Ill in U.S. Prisons—A Review" by Antonia Moras

The enormous growth in the national prison population has intensified the problems presented by the needs of mentally ill inmates. This article reviews a 2003 report by Human Rights Watch which examines in depth the situation of the adult mentally ill in state and federal prisons. The report, long and well-researched, blends material from legal documents, court records, academic studies, site visits, interviews and letters and offers recommendations for change. Related sidebar stories provide current information on mentally ill inmates in Alaska prisons and state mental health funding to the Alaska Department of Corrections and other mental health programs in the state.

"Mentally Ill Inmates in Alaska Prisons" by Antonia Moras

As with the U.S. prison system in general, the Alaska correctional system is the largest provider of mental health care services in the state. According to a 1997, approximately 37 percent of the population of Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities exhibit a mental disorder—mental illness (including major psychiatric disorders) and/or chronic alcoholism. This article discusses DOC's efforts to supervise and treat mentally ill inmates under its supervision and describes some of the obstacles to effective provision of mental health care services to inmates.

"Corrections and State Mental Health Funding" by Antonia Moras

Since FY 2002, there has been a large decrease in the amount of money allocated for mental health programs throughout the Alaska, including many programs that affect the situation of offenders with mental illness. This article discusses state mental health funding to the Alaska Department of Corrections and other mental health programs which serve offenders.

"Measures of Outcomes Associated With Alcohol Abuse in Alaska" by Darryl S. Wood

The topic of alcohol abuse and its attendant social harms are a continuing part of the public conversation in Alaska. This article looks at the various secondary data sources — assembled by the police, public health agencies, and other entities — that can be used in examining effectiveness of alcohol control policies in Alaska. In addition to describing each data source, each is discussed in terms of whether it provides statewide coverage, the extent to which it is complete, and the level of geographic and temporal specificity it provides.