No pre-trial office in Douglas, says Department of Corrections, which also clears up misconceptions

Juneau police Lt. David Campbell spoke to Douglas residents before Alaska’s Director of Pre-trial Services Geri Fox at a special neighborhood association special meeting. (Photo by Caroline Halter/KTOO)

Rumors of a “pre-trial facility” for parolees on Douglas Island sparked concern among residents last week.

Alaska’s Department of Corrections’ Geri Fox attended a special meeting of the neighborhood association Tuesday evening to assuage fears and offer clarification.

“We are not housing offenders on Douglas Island,” she said firmly.

Fox explained that there was a plan to establish an office in downtown Douglas for pre-trial officers.

“We were going to bring in six officers onto Douglas Island, every day, who would have their offices here,” Fox said. “There was no holding facility or handcuff bar or anything like that.”

But that’s now off the table.

“I do not have intentions of putting my officers on Douglas Island at this point,” Fox said. “I have heard you. I’m not interested in doing that at this point.”

Pre-trial officers will be in charge of monitoring people who’ve been arrested for a crime, but have yet to appear in court or be convicted.

They’re not parolees, as some residents believed.

Occasionally these people will come in for scheduled appointments, but for the most part, officers will go out into the community to check in with people at home.

The pre-trial program doesn’t yet exist. It’s one piece of a criminal justice overhaul passed by the legislature last year that seeks to divert people from prisons and jails to cut costs.

“I don’t think you’re the only community that misunderstands or maybe has ideas about what this is,” she said. “We need to educate Alaskans about what it is.”

Fox still doesn’t know where the office will be, but she shared her timeline for getting the program up and running.

One big piece of the puzzle is developing a risk assessment tool to determine who is eligible for pretrial services.

“We will be piloting the tool in September, so I need to have a good portion of my officers hired and in place somewhere, right?” Fox asked.

After that, the next phase will begin in January 2018.

“We’ll start assessing and then those defendants will be supervised. But the real kick-start date is January 2018,” Fox said.

The meeting ended on a lighthearted note. People offered suggestions of where the office could go. One attendee joked of putting the office on a boat called Australia.

Despite not wanting the office in their neighborhood, several residents expressed approval of the state’s new approach to criminal justice and the effect it could have on public safety.

Correction: Pre-trial officers will be in charge of monitoring people who’ve been arrested for a crime, but have yet to appear in court or be convicted. A previous version of this story incorrectly said officers would be monitoring people who have been charged with a crime.

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