Senator Lisa Murkowski today reached out to Alaska's tribal leaders with the outlines of a proposal - years in the making- that would create a collaborative framework to solve the public safety crisis in rural Alaska. The Senator's Rural Public Safety Initiative is an attempt to bring Alaska Native tribes and the State of Alaska together to increase the public safety presence and authority in some of the most remote communities in Alaska.
"We face a crisis of public safety in rural Alaska," said Senator Murkowski. "Year after year, Alaska reports the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Nation. These are not only statistics to Alaskans, they are real people. The sad fact of the matter is: we all know friends and family members who have been victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The fabric of our rural Alaska communities is woven by a network of extended families. Our public safety crisis affects us all."
Under Murkowski's Rural Public Safety Initiative, the State of Alaska would deputize the tribal or village law enforcement officer as a special officer to aid and assist in the enforcement of the criminal laws of the State. The law enforcement officer may offer civil tribal diversion remedies to certain cases, regardless if the offenders are tribal members or not.
If an offender agrees to the civil tribal diversion remedies as a possible alternative to state misdemeanor criminal prosecution, the participating Alaska Native tribe's tribal court may impose sanctions for the drug and alcohol related state misdemeanor offenses as it determines to be appropriate, consistent with the Indian Civil Rights Act and tribal law, including measures such as: restorative justice; community service; fines; forfeitures; commitments for treatment; restraining orders; emergency detentions; and banishment.
"We have over 100 villages without the presence of law enforcement. That means if an assault happens 9-1-1 doesn't work. Furthermore, trained people must be available in a timely manner to collect the forensic evidence necessary to sustain prosecutions," said Senator Murkowski. "We must push to ensure that geography is no barrier to justice. Our Tribal Courts and our State courts must be working together, rather than opposing one another. For some these are sovereignty issues, pitting the State and Tribes against each other. We must collaborate in a meaningful and respectful way."
The entire document of concepts and proposals can be found at Senator Murkowski's initiative webpage: http://www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=rural-public-safety-initiative