Press Release

Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission Report is Presented the Alaska Legislature

April 6, 2006

(Anchorage) - Attorney General David Márquez, Co-Chair of the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission (ARJLEC), participated in the presentation of the Commission's Initial Report and Recommendations yesterday before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in Juneau today.

The Commission was created by Congress in 2004 and was charged with the task of studying four areas of the law related to rural Alaska including: law enforcement, judicial services, alcohol importation and interdiction, and domestic violence and child abuse.

"The process was invaluable in mapping out directions for future legislative efforts and allocation of state and federal resources to improve rural justice efforts throughout the state," said Márquez. "I was especially impressed with the information and recommendations the Commission received, which focused on community-based approaches to address rural justice issues."

"We were fortunate to have the committed involvement from stakeholders in this process, as individuals and as representatives of communities, Alaska Native corporations and non-profit organizations," said Deborah Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney and Commission Co-Chair. "There remains a lot of work left for all of us to do to create the infrastructure necessary to address rural justice concerns through improved communications. We also need to identify alternative intervention approaches to protect our rural communities."

The working groups identified over 100 options, which, through careful deliberation, resulted in nine broad categories of recommendations for improving the four aspects of rural justice identified in the Commission's legislative mandate: (1) Engaging in more partnerships and collaboration, (2) Making systemic changes to improve rural justice law enforcement, (3) Enlarge the use of community-based solutions, (4) Broaden the use of prevention approaches, (5) Broaden the use of therapeutic approaches, (6) Increase employment of rural residents in law enforcement and judicial services, (7) Build additional capacity, (8) Increase access to judicial services, and (9) Expand the use of new technologies.

"At the legislative level we continue to improve our state bootlegging and local option laws – topics strongly tied to concerns raised by the Commission with respect to the use, sale and abuse of alcohol in rural Alaska," said Bill Tandeske, Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and ARJLEC member. "At the departmental level, we have created new law enforcement and rural prosecution positions, worked with federal agencies to step up rural alcohol interdiction efforts, and have launched a pilot "Sub-Hub" project to become more proactive in providing services to villages. Our goal is to work with village residents to address their needs."

Commission members have met since October 2004. The findings and recommendations made in the Initial Report reflect the efforts of fifty people from across the state who participated in working groups that met between January and April 2005. Fifteen public hearings were held across the state and in our rural communities from January through June 2005.

"The Commission members, their staff and the 50 members comprising the Commission's working groups have worked extremely hard to bring together this report," said Márquez. "Implementing the recommendations of this Report will require advocacy at the state and federal level."

"Two years ago U.S. Senator Ted Stevens told the Alaska State Legislature that the panel's primary objectives will be stronger law enforcement and a swift, fair system of justice for all," said Márquez. "We must move forward, at a state and federal level, to implement today's recommendations with the continued participation of Alaska's rural stakeholders."

In early May the report will be presented to Congress.

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