House approves sweeping criminal justice overhaul

JUNEAU -- After dozens of hours of testimony and debate, lawmakers in the state House voted overwhelming in favor of a massive overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Sponsor North Pole Sen. John Coghill seeks to re-orient the state's criminal justice system away from costly jail terms and into community-based treatment programs. It passed 28-11 on Thursday.

The bill was based on reforms suggested by a state criminal justice commission. It recommended reduced sentences and a presumption of citation instead of an arrest for misdemeanors. It is expected to save the state millions by reducing its prison population. It also funds treatment programs with a portion of the state's marijuana tax revenue.

Opponents say they do not want to close the state's $4 billion budget gap by emptying prisons.

The bill next heads back to the Senate for a concurring vote.