Alaska Receives $900,000 Grant for Diversion Agreements with Tribal Courts
October 10, 2018
(Anchorage, AK) – The State recently received a federal grant of $900,000 to help implement the Civil Diversion Agreement with more Alaska tribes. Around 2014, the State began working collaboratively with tribes and tribal organizations to draft a model agreement that would allow certain low-level criminal offenses to be diverted to tribal court for a civil remedy. The federal grant money will be given out in sub-grants to tribes to help stand up the agreement and get tribal courts the support they need to effectively take on these new cases.
“Tribes and tribal courts have told us they would love to take these matters on and take a direct role in providing public safety in their communities, but there’s one thing that always stands in the way—money,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “Alaska tribes often get overlooked for federal funding because of the lack of a land base. We went to the federal government and said we have tribes that are ready and willing to address public safety in their communities, we just need the resources to get tribal civil diversion programs up and running.”
Under the agreement, offenders who would otherwise be charged with certain fourth degree assaults, reckless endangerment, Class B misdemeanors, crimes involving substance abuse, and certain alcohol and drug-related offenses must be given the option to go before the tribal court for a culturally-based remedy, instead of state court. The offender must consent in writing and agree to a tribally imposed remedy, or face the possibility of criminal prosecution in state court. The tribal court can also decline to take the matter and send it back to state court. In addition, the agreement retains additional safeguards and sideboards before any domestic violence offense would be diverted from state court.
“When it comes to domestic violence offenses, we must ensure the victim has a voice in the process,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “The focus must be on healing for the survivor and the community as well as rehabilitation to prevent future victims.”
The Department of Law has conducted numerous trainings around the State to explain the agreement and how it would work. At this point, two tribes have signed the agreement—Anvik Village Tribe and Nulato Tribal Council. The State has been working with these Tribes in preparation for their first referrals.
“Currently what we are doing in rural Alaska is not working,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “It is my belief that allowing culturally-based remedies in someone’s home community will have a positive impact on public safety. You are more likely to take responsibility for your actions when you have to face your neighbors, friends and family members and be held accountable for what you have done.”
The Civil Diversion Agreement has been part of the Public Safety Action Plan since issuance of the plan last October. It is item #38 on the recent October Public Safety Action Plan Update (PDF - 388K).
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