Disability Justice / Criminal Justice Reform

The [prison] mental health clinician, a wonderful woman, came back to my segregation cell and talked to me through my tray slot and started to offer me real help. She brought me over to the mental health unit for a while and started helping me figure out what was wrong with me. I’m not bad, I have a disorder.

– Nicole, Trust beneficiary

Learn More About Nicole's Story


Trust beneficiaries are at increased risk for involvement with the criminal justice system, both as victims and defendants, due to their disabilities as well as deficiencies in the community treatment and support systems. Hundreds of beneficiaries each year are incarcerated for their safety because adequate service alternatives do not exist. Thousands more are arrested for offenses resulting from behaviors associated with symptoms of their mental disorders. The disability justice focus area is aimed at reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system.

Since 2005, the Trust’s board of trustees has directed significant funding and staff resources towards criminal justice reform efforts in Alaska to address this and other justice related issues affecting beneficiaries, including reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system as well as preventing the victimization of beneficiaries.

In 2014, the Trust funded a study of the prevalence and characteristics of Trust beneficiaries who entered, exited, or resided in an Alaska Department of Corrections facility between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2012. The study identified over 60,000 unique individuals, of which 30 percent identified as Trust beneficiaries. Additionally, Trust beneficiaries accounted for more than 40 percent of the incarcerations each year, and their median length of a jail/prison stay was significantly longer than for non-Trust beneficiary offenders.

In recent years, criminal justice reform and reinvestment have been a top priority of the Alaska Legislature and administration. In 2016, an omnibus criminal justice reform bill, Senate Bill 91, was passed. This bill is working to build a more effective system for appropriately serving justice-involved Alaskans, inclusive of Trust beneficiaries. Highlights of the bill include: individualized case management, expanded institutional substance use treatment programs, strengthened community supervision, implementation of pretrial enforcement division, among many others. SB 91 also formed the Criminal Justice Commission, which the Trust is a member. It is important to note, while the bill was passed in 2016, some elements only recently were implemented. The Trust, in partnership with the state, is funding the Alaska Justice Information Center  (AJiC ) to gather data to assess the efficiency/effectiveness of these justice reinvestments. A first review by AJiC, has shown tremendous success. 

Goals + Strategies

The Trust uses the Sequential Intercept Model as the foundation for making funding allocations and policy decisions. The overall goals are

  1. developing criminal justice and community behavioral health partnerships;
  2. diverting trust beneficiaries from the criminal justice system; and,
  3. maintaining public safety by improving the health of beneficiaries and Alaska communities.

Below are the SIM intercepts where strategies and Trust supported activities are employed to achieve the goals above:

  • Systems and Policy Development
  • Increased Capacity, Training and Competencies
  • Community Prevention
  • Community Intervention/Diversion
  • Booking and Screening Practices
  • In-facility Practices
  • Re-entry
  • Community Aftercare


Travis Welch, Program Officer