JUNEAU – Wednesday, Senator Matt Claman (D-Anchorage) introduced legislation strengthening involuntary commitment statutes by adding a five-year option to current Alaska law. With this approach, the state can seek involuntary commitment of individuals who have been found incompetent to stand trial, have a history of repeated felony offenses against the person, and have prior 30, 90, and 180-day involuntary holds. Senate Bill 53 is a positive step forward to improving public safety while utilizing our resources wisely.
In February 2022, Angela Harris was returning books at the Loussac Library in Anchorage when a man stabbed her in the back. The perpetrator had been found incompetent to stand trial two months earlier for attacks on other women. In the wake of this incident, Angela contacted Senator Claman and other public officials with concerns about how this individual was released from state supervision and was able to attack her.
Senate Bill 53 addresses the problem presented by Angela’s experience. Senate Bill 53 deals with a small number of individuals who fit the criteria for an involuntary hold and the additional criteria set forth by the legislation – a history of repeated felony offenses against the person, a finding of incompetency to stand trial, and a need to protect the public for up to five years.
“This bill is an essential part of robust legislative change needed to keep Alaskans safe from violent offenders. I am hopeful it will prompt further dialogue to improve public safety and more adequate support services for victims of violent crimes,” said Angela Harris.
“Angela Harris’ tragic case illustrates the need to improve Alaska’s involuntary commitment structure to include long-term treatment options for individuals who lack the capacity to face criminal prosecution, but present a clear and present danger to the public,” said Sen. Matt Claman.
Senate Bill 53 was referred to the Senate Health and Social Services and Judiciary Committees.