Budget cuts change Dept. of Law priorities in rural Alaska

The Department of Law is cutting positions, changing the type of cases the state pursues in rural districts.

The reductions will ensure the department is only pursuing serious charges, and cutting out cases where there are civil alternatives to criminal proceedings. They are also examining sharing space with sister agencies like the State Troopers in the future.

Critics of the state and federal government’s role in rural Alaska say there is already a “law gap,” with too few law enforcement officials based in hubs tasked with responding to incidents in smaller communities.

Department employees were told in a May 4th email that 15 positions will be eliminated as part of an effort to close a 6 percent budget gap. Six of the eliminated positions will come through attrition. The cuts take effect May 29th.

Last year the department cut four positions from larger offices, and taken together Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny says the cuts are spread equitably across the state. The effects, however, are more evident in rural hub communities.

“In Dillingham, in Kotzebue, in Barrow,” Svobodny says, “we will have gone from four people in the offices to two in the offices.”

Other communities losing attorneys, paralegals, or support positions include Juneau, Fairbanks, Bethel, and Sitka, as well as the Office of Special Prosecutions in Anchorage.

 

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