Two Pilot Projects in the Alaska Court System

Two Pilot Projects in the Alaska Court System

Teresa White Carns

"Two Pilot Projects in the Alaska Court System" by Teresa White Carns. Alaska Justice Forum 27(2): 5 (Summer 2010). This article describes two pilot projects in Alaska initiated by the Criminal Justice Working Group (CJWG). The goal of PACE (Probationer Accountability with Certain Enforcement), modeled on Hawaii's successful Project HOPE, is to reduce substance abuse, technical violations, and incarceration for probationers. Electronic Exchange of Discovery will allow law enforcement agencies and state and municipal prosecutors in Juneau (the pilot location) to electronically share discoverable information and reports in criminal cases.

PACE-Project HOPE for Alaska

Anchorage Superior Court Judges William Morse and John Suddock held warning hearings during the week of July 12-16 for the first 29 probationers assigned to Anchorage Project PACE-Probationer Accountability with Certain Enforcement. During subsequent weeks, judges have held hearings on petitions to revoke probation because of violations of the PACE requirements as needed. By the end of August, judges had conducted revocation hearings for 14 of the 29 participants. The goal of the PACE project is to reduce substance abuse, technical violations, and incarceration for probationers.

To help with the planning for the project, Honolulu Judge Steven Alm, who initiated Project HOPE in Hawaii in 2005, flew to Anchorage for meetings on June 8 and 9 with Criminal Justice Working Group (CJWG) members, including cochair Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti, and the team who will manage PACE in Anchorage. Dr. Angela Hawken from UCLA, whose randomized control evaluation of the Hawaii project showed that participation reduced recidivism substantially, joined Judge Alm. They also spoke at the Western Conference of Corrections Directors. Fourth Judicial District Presiding Judge Douglas Blankenship and Fairbanks Chief Probation Officer Glenn Bacon joined the meetings to prepare for a possible Project PACE in Fairbanks.

From the outset, the PACE pilot project in Anchorage will be evaluated using multiple designs including, in the longer run, a fully randomized experimental approach. The Anchorage probation office set criteria for the first round of probationers. Participants will have a "urinalysis required" condition of probation. In the early stages of this program, probationers who are on the Enhanced Supervision, Sex Offender, or Minimum Transition Units; those who have an active petition to revoke probation; and those on parole have been excluded (although parolees may be considered later). Comparison group participants would be selected using the same criteria as those for PACE participants.

Electronic Exchange of Discovery Project

A Criminal Justice Working Group committee that included representatives from the Court System, the Department of Law, the Office of Public Advocacy, and the Judicial Council and technical advisors from the Juneau and Anchorage Police Departments reviewed responses to the request for proposals that was circulated in April and May 2010. After applying the criteria of cost, analytical approach, familiarity with the systems used by the Juneau Police Department, ability to work with other electronic records, and capacity to perform the work, the committee chose Justice Data Group, Inc., a private vendor based in Juneau, as the successful applicant.

During the next six to eight months, Justice Data Group will develop and launch the eDiscovery WebPortal system that will allow law enforcement agencies and state and municipal prosecutors in Juneau (the pilot location) to electronically share discoverable information and reports in criminal cases. Defense attorneys in Juneau will have electronic access, on a case-by-case basis, to the discovery information in their assigned cases.

The project will reduce the time needed for attorneys to review discovery information such as police reports, reduce staff time spent copying and delivering information, and reduce questions about whether and when the discovery was actually provided. Criminal Justice Working Group members hope to expand the pilot project throughout the state in the future.

Teri Carns is with the Alaska Judicial Council in Anchorage, with responsibility for research projects, report writing, and aspects of judicial selection and retention.