Burglars often find themselves at odds with the justice system

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2006

A burglary crime often isn’t a first crime. Burglars typically have other criminal history in some other outlawed activity, say law enforcement experts.

University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Dr. Sharon Chamard said recidivism statistics for burglary are not available for crimes in Alaska, but a 2004 study done in the state of Washington showed that among burglars, 64 percent of those sentenced that year had histories of other felonies.

“Generally, burglars are young people, most likely young males,” Chamard said. “Indications in the literature show that people who commit burglaries are substance abusers and commit the crimes while under the influence.”

Garland Armstrong is superintendent of Wildwood Correctional Center, a complex three miles north of Kenai that can house approximately 360 prisoners. He agreed that drug habits often drive burglaries.

Many convicted burglars end up in his charge.

The length of a sentence imposed by a court, along with other factors, determines where a convict spends his time, Armstrong said. Some may be sent to Wildwood, while other may go to Spring Creek Correctional Center near Seward.

But crowded Alaska facilities could put prisoners a lot farther from home — like Arizona, where many Alaska prisoners are serving time.

Thus, a convicted burglar faces not only time behind bars, but stands at least the chance of being shipped out of state far from family and friends, Armstrong said.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.

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