Alaska Justice Forum 26(4), Winter 2010

The Winter 2010 issue of the Alaska Justice Forum leads off with an article on a recent Ninth Circuit decision holding that a Washington state law denying felons the right to vote  is in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Other articles include profiles of correctional populations in Alaska and the U.S., an update on the work of the Criminal Justice Working Group, a pilot program aimed at reducing probation revocations rates, a study of juvenile probation officer workloads, and a discussion of the Language Interpreter Center, which works to provide qualified interpreters in legal, medical, social services, and educational settings statewide.

"Felon Disenfranchisement and the Voting Rights Act — Farrakhan V. Gregoire: 'A Crowd of One'"
by Deborah Periman

Early this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Farrakhan v. Gregoire, a challenge to Washington State’s felon disenfranchisement law.  The court’s decision stands alone among the circuits in holding that state law denying felons the right to vote is in violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, where discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system results in race-based denial of the vote.  Despite speculation, suggestions that the Farrakhan decision signals the demise of Alaska’s disenfranchisement law are overstated.  Nevertheless, the case is noteworthy for reopening the conversation about why we deny certain offenders the right to vote, and whether these laws reflect viable public policy or are simply relics of an era in which racial and class prejudices limited participation in the political process.

"Juvenile Probation Officer Workload and Caseload Study" by André B. Rosay and Thomas S. Begich

This article provides results of a recent Justice Center study of juvenile probation officer (JPO) workloads and caseloads in the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which examined the resources required in both rural and urban Alaska to adequately meet minimum probation standards, to continue the development and enhancement of system improvements, and to fully implement DJJ's restorative justice field probation service delivery model.

"Alaska Offender Profile 2009"

At the end of 2009, a total of 5,285 institutionalized offenders under the supervision of the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC), a 5 percent increase in incacerated offenders from 2008, according to the DOC's 2009 offender profile. About 26 of the offender population was Alaska Natives and just over 10 percent was Black - disproportionate to their percentages in the general population (16% and 4%, respectively). The web version of this article includes an additional table which could not be included in the print edition for reasons of space.

"Correctional Populations 2008"

Figures recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics show that prisoners under federal and state jurisdiction at year-end 2008 numbered 1,610,446. Inmates under local jurisdiction represented an additional 785,556 individuals, for a combined total of 2,304,115 incarcerated individuals. The imprisonment rate for males was 15 times higher than for females, and 6.5 times higher for Black males than for White males. The United States continues to lead all other nations in the rate of reported incarceration of individuals per 100,000 of the general population. The U.S. rate of 754 inmates per 100,000 residents is 5 to 10 times higher than that of Canada and most of the industrialized democracies of Western Europe.

"The Language Interpreter Center and Interpretation in Alaska"

The Language Interpreter Center (LIC), an Alaska multi-agency collaboration, now has a pool of 115 trained interpreters speaking 36 languages. The LIC works in cooperation with its many partners to meet the need for qualified interpreters in legal, medical, social services, and educational settings statewide. The web version of this article includes an additional figure and table which could not be included in the print edition for reasons of space.

"Criminal Justice Working Group Update" by Teresa White Carns

Coordinated and staffed by the Alaska Judicial Council, the Criminal Justice Working Group (CJWG) is made up of representatives from the executive branch justice agencies and other justice system agencies and organizations in Alaska. The CWCG has focused on two main aspects of the criminal justice system: crime prevention and reduction of recidivism; and efficiencies in the system. This article outlines the CJWG's recent work and accomplishments: electronic exchange of discovery information among agencies; offender re-entry programs; Project HOPE, a successful probation monitoring program developed in Hawaii; and ongoing analysis of recidivism and program effectiveness.

"Project HOPE for Alaska" by Teresa White Carns

Every day, the Anchorage Superior court handles five petitions — over 100 per month —  to revoke probation for technical reasons such as failed drug tests and missed appointments. Project HOPE in Hawaii is an evidence-based program that reduced revocation rates and re-arrests of participating offenders. The Alaska Department of Corrections, in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Working Group, is developing a pilot program in Alaska based on the Project HOPE model.