Anvik tribal courts given more jurisdiction in lower level cases

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The state of Alaska and the Anvik Tribe have signed an historic justice agreement.  The government to government pact provides a template for tribal courts to administer restorative sentences in certain lower level cases, as an alternative to the state criminal justice system.

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The western Interior Anvik tribe is the first of several across the state expected to sign on to the justice agreement with the state.  It allows willing offenders, both tribal and non-tribal to divert from state to a tribal court for lower level, and first time crimes, including domestic violence, alcohol and drug offenses.  Alaska Attorney general Jana Lindemuth announced the agreement during a Tuesday press conference in Anchorage

“In recent years, our state courts have used more restorative justice and therapeutic court models to focus on treatment rather than incarceration,” Lindemuth said. “And I think there will be greater success when a community uses its culturally relevant restorative justice tools.”

Lindemuth said the state is in contact with federal officials about funding for tribal courts, noting that the justice alternative is expected to both save the state money and bring attention to offenses the state does not have the capacity to address. Will Mayo with the Tanana Chief’s Conference called the agreement a step toward bringing justice to far reaches of the state, noting that it can stem issues before they become more serious.

”So if we have restorative justice systems that can begin to emerge through an agreement like this, then we can catch our citizens in the early stages of where they make a mistake,” Mayo said. “And they don’t have to go directly into a hardcore punitive corrections system.”

Tribe-administered penalties outlined under the agreement can include fines of up to $1,500 or replacement of stolen or damaged property, but also include apology to those impacted by a crime. Offenders who refuse to comply with tribal court orders face prosecution in state court, and all cases will be initially investigated and evidence logged according to Alaska law in case that happens.