The Criminal Justice Working Group (CJWG), coordinated and staffed by the Alaska Judicial Council, focuses on two main aspects of the criminal justice system: crime prevention and reduction of recidivism, and efficiencies in the system. Supreme Court Justice Walter Carpeneti and Attorney General Michael Geraghty are the co-chairs. The CJWG has recently been focusing on the following issues:
Pilot electronic discovery project: Prosecutors in Juneau will soon have the ability to send discovery documents and information to defense attorneys electronically. This system will provide more efficient access of documents, track document accessibility, and assist in the resolution of discovery disputes. Attorneys will receive training in the use of the system, and the CJWG is considering expanding the project to other locations.
Appointment of public counsel study: Indigent defendants in criminal cases are provided with court-appointed counsel-either a public defender, an Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) attorney, or a private attorney hired by OPA. The Alaska Court System and the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC) are auditing how appointments are made to ensure compliance with Criminal Rule 39.1, including determining the accuracy of financial information provided by defendants. The court system and AJC are also conducting a survey of all private attorneys who have represented a criminal defendant in the past two years to ascertain whether it is necessary to update the estimated costs of private representation in Criminal Rule 39.1. This rule defines how eligibility for court-appointed counsel is determined (http://courts.alaska.gov/crpro.htm#39).
Therapeutic DUI Courts: The Therapeutic Court Subcommittee is working on the expansion of the DUI Courts in Kenai and Palmer, and is also looking at methods to give offenders an opportunity to reinstate their driver's licenses. The DUI Therapeutic Court is an alternative justice model that presents an offender with the option to participate in a closely monitored treatment program in lieu of jail time.
Re-entry: The Prisoner Re-Entry Task Force continues its work in four areas: housing, employment, access to behavioral health, and education. The CJWG will be reviewing the types of crimes that currently act as barriers to employment to determine if a change is needed in the designation of these crimes and how to create a more efficient and effective waiver process.
Recidivism: The CJWG will be reviewing the recidivism reports done jointly by the Alaska Judicial Council and the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) with a focus on the high recidivism rate among misdemeanants and suggested data collection improvements to assure future reliability of reports. Additional recidivism studies are under consideration including a further evaluation of the PACE (Probation Accountability with Certain Enforcement) program now operating in various locations statewide, in addition to Anchorage.
Case management systems: Member agencies of the justice system are reviewing how to ensure consistency in the use of terms and data fields in their case management systems. Consistency in definitions and data input will assist with research and analysis projects.