Rural Justice & Law Enforcement
The Criminal and Civil Divisions of the Department of Law are committed to improving justice in rural Alaska. The Department has rural offices in Barrow, Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue and Nome. All of these offices are staffed with at least two attorneys, a victim witness paralegal and a law office assistant. In Bethel, a major rural hub, there are seven prosecutors and two assistant attorneys general with three paralegals and four law office assistants. These people work diligently in aiding and instructing law enforcement personnel, including Village Public Safety Officers and village and tribal officers; providing local prosecutorial services and attorneys who work on child protective issues, issues relating to alcohol abuse importation and interdiction; and supporting the Governor's Choose Respect Initiative in fighting against child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Department recognizes the recommendations of the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission established by the United States Congress in 2004. The Commission made nine recommendations for improving rural justice: (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.
The Department has also worked with the Alaska State Legislature to support rural communities regarding local alcohol option laws and improving state statutes regarding bootlegging. The legislation has provided funding for lawyers to work on interdicting alcohol headed for dry communities. The Department created a rural prosecution unit to assist rural district attorney's offices in complex cases and to provide backup staffing when needed. Our focus is to work with village residents to address their needs.