State corrections officials have teamed up with local law enforcement and tribal entities for training in new pretrial and electronic monitoring procedures that go into effect Jan. 1 as part of the legislation signed into law last July.
Alaska Department of Corrections officials were in Cordova on Nov. 1 to give the police and the Native Village of Eyak guidance on the statewide jail booking program and new pretrial assessment tools.
These tools include numerous numerical factors based on previous criminal history, age and whether the person is a repeat offender of the same type of crime, plus other criteria. Cordova police officers can also participate in recommending conditions of release, ADOC officials said.
“The goal of pretrial enforcement is to supervise and monitor individuals who are eligible for release from jail during the pretrial phase,” said Geri Fox, director of the pretrial enforcement division of ADOC. “It is important to remember that these are individuals who have been accused, but not convicted of a crime, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. In addition, we hope to identify individuals who are willing to participate in treatment much earlier.”
SB 91, a crime reform bill authored by Senators John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, was signed into law on July 11, 2016. During the special legislative session underway in Juneau, the Alaska House this past week passed legislation to reverse much of last year’s criminal justice overhaul.
Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams, ADOC Supervisor of Pretrial Enforcement Division Leah Van Kirk and Fox were in Cordova on Nov. 1 to meet with police and officials from the Native Village of Eyak. They spoke with Cordova Chief of Police Mike Hicks, NVE Executive Director Kerin Kramer, NVE Tribal Justice System Administrator/Court Clerk Sarah Kathrein, and NVE Tribal Council Secretary/Treasurer Jack Hopkins about implementing the new pretrial procedures in an effort to reduce jail costs.
“After someone is booked into the Cordova jail, they will be assessed using the AK-2S,” Fox explained. “This tool helps inform the judge about factors to consider for bail decisions. Cordova officers can also participate in recommending conditions of release.”
AK-2S is the abbreviated reference for the Alaska 2-Scale training, also known as the pretrial assessment tool.
“We have partnered with NVE and the state to look at electronic monitoring and a diversionary program for low level offenders, in an effort to make them less likely to reoffend, which will keep jail costs down,” Hicks said. “Currently, a person that can’t make bail, for financial reasons, costs the state (you and I), approximately $150 per day while sitting in jail awaiting disposition of their case.
“If that same low-level offender was out on electronic monitoring, the cost is about $4 per day, and the person has the opportunity to return to their place of employment and be a productive part of the community,” he said.
“All of our dispatch staff have attended, or will soon attend, the three-week Municipal Jail Academy in Palmer,” Hicks said.
In Alaska, defendants can get out of jail if they can afford bail or find a third-party custodian. Many defendants currently make bail, but they are not supervised by anyone. Others remain in custody because there is no other alternative, Fox said.
“When defendants get out of jail after Jan. 1 in Cordova, they will not only be supervised for compliance with the conditions of release, but some of them will also be required to have electronic monitoring devices,” she said.
Electronic monitoring technology may be used to assure that defendants comply with curfews, and to notify police of a defendant with a no-alcohol release condition who is consuming alcohol, Fox said.
The idea for the local police department to become a pilot program for ADOC began about a year ago, when Williams and Fox met with Hicks to talk about being partners, Fox said.
“During that meeting, we all agreed that local communities are the best at understanding their needs and knowing how to address local challenges,” Fox said. “We had conversations about the new pretrial enforcement division, and what this new unit might mean for our future. We also identified several areas where collaboration made sense.”
“The state of Alaska saves money, public safety improves, and Cordova receives some additional funds to support pretrial efforts at the local level,” she said.
Shortly thereafter, Fox said Hicks suggested a possible partnership that would include a larger vision of a diversion program in collaboration with the Native Village of Eyak.
“Then, DOC began working with Sarah Kathrein to assist with developing plans to expand treatment support for those needing services,” Fox said.
“Some of the funding came about from a grant from NVE through the efforts of Sarah Kathrein,” Hicks said. “After meeting with Commissioner Williams and Geri Fox earlier this year, we presented our idea to the state in an effort to avoid further cuts to Cordova’s state jail contract. The state in turn put money back into our contract, to offset training costs and the cost of the equipment.”
No information was provided regarding the associated costs for the pretrial or electronic monitoring program.
Williams said he was impressed with Hicks’ and Kathrein’s vision for Cordova’s pilot program.
“Cordova is the shining star – the best example of what this program should look like in communities around the state. We can’t brag on your police chief or Sarah Kathrein enough. This is what a partnership should look like,” Williams said.
The state will continue to work with Cordova police as the program moves forward, Fox said.