Prior to creation of the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission, many entities engaged in fact-finding and issued recommendations regarding many of the same issues that were the focus of the Commission's efforts. The Alaska Natives Commission, the Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment and the Alaska State-Tribal Relations Team (2001 Millennium Agreement, 850k PDF) each heard testimony from rural residents, experts and government leaders throughout Alaska regarding child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and interdiction, the delivery of public safety and justice services, and tribal/state relations. The recommendations issued by each these deliberative bodies provided the Commission with valuable historical context that both enhanced its deliberations and offered invaluable insights into what must be accomplished to improve the delivery of essential services to remote communities. Reports from the Alaska Natives Commission and the Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment are available on the UAA Justice Center web site.
The recommendations that have issued from these numerous prior efforts reflect consistent themes that influenced the decision-making of the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission:
- Essential state services should be extended in rural Alaska through improved coordination, communication, and collaboration between tribal and state governments;
- Meaningful solutions demand creative, intergovernmental and collaborative approaches to problem-solving; and
- The State of Alaska should recognize tribal governmental authority and increase local participation in, if not control over, a wide variety of issues.
Numerous other groups that have assessed the needs for justice in Alaska have come to the same conclusions and recommendations as the commissions that specifically focused on Alaska Natives and the rural communities. Among these have been the UAA Justice Center, with a large body of work on tribal government and rural law enforcement, the Alaska Judicial Council, which focused on tribal courts and rural dispute resolution alternatives, and several inter-agency and inter-branch groups, including the Alaska Sentencing Commission (1990- 1992), Criminal Justice Assessment Commission (1997-2000), the Criminal Justice Council (2000 - 2002), and the Criminal Justice Working Group (2007 to the present). Reports from these last four groups are all available on the Alaska Judicial Council web site.