Juneau’s pretrial office now has a spot.
After months of searching for a suitable spot in Juneau to station officers who assist in pretrial services, the Pretrial Enforcement Division settled on the building on Sherwood Lane that currently houses the Alaska State Troopers office in the Mendenhall Valley. State Director of Pretrial Enforcement Geri Fox said Wednesday that the office is scheduled to open Jan. 1, 2018.
The facility, which will not have any housing for inmates or those on trial, will be an office building for officers who work with individuals who have been accused, but not yet convicted or acquitted of a crime.
Fox said it’s been a bit of a whirlwind putting the program together in the span of a few short months.
“I feel comfortable we’re ready, but this is warp speed,” Fox said. “There’s just a lot, and we will be ready, but it is wicked fast.”
The pretrial initiative is part of Senate Bill 91 in the effort to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals in the state, and puts an emphasis on monitoring defendants in their homes. Officers will often conduct visits in homes, Fox explained, but might occasionally have meetings with defendants at the pretrial office.
Fox said pretrial officials have spoken to other businesses in that area (including the Department of Motor Vehicles office and the fire training center) and that everybody is on board with the pretrial office going in there. Fox said they’ve hired a supervisor, Leah Van Kirk, and two officers for the office and are still looking to fill two more officer positions.
Eventually, Fox hopes to have six or eight officers at each branch throughout the state. To start off with, most offices will have four or five officers. These officers will monitor those in the pretrial system, but will also operate an assessment system. This system will evaluate the best options for each person arrested in Alaska — and there are about 32,000 arrests in the state per year, Fox said in April — whether it’s being incarcerated or entering the pretrial program.
Already, local organizations such as the Haines Police Department have begun to partner with Pretrial Enforcement in helping to speed up the assessment process. Fox said her department has been talking a bit with the City and Borough of Juneau and the Juneau Police Department, and that she looks forward to forming tighter connections with them.
“The state still has obligation to figure this out,” Fox said, “but we think the best public safety outcome is to partner with local agencies.”
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