Alaska Editorial: The right message

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

 

The Department of Law’s new policy sends the right message.

It’s a message reinforcing appropriate penalties for serious crimes, including domestic violence.

As of this week, state prosecutors won’t include sentences in plea bargains.

They will offer defendants lesser charges and the opportunity to avoid trial, but sentences won’t be in the bargain.

This pertains to the most serious felonies and all cases involving sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor and domestic violence.

For the victims in such crimes, the policy is considerate of their situations as it should be.

Domestic violence in particular is one of the state’s most prevalent crimes. Gov. Sean Parnell has been focused on protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators through his “Choose Respect” campaign.

Undoubtedly, Alaska’s domestic violence issues often go hand-in-hand with another of its largest social challenges — alcoholism.

Between 90 and 95 percent of all criminal cases in Alaska are settled through plea bargains.

The new policy is actually an old policy revisited. In 1975, the state banned all forms of plea bargaining.

While some are concerned the new policy will overload the court system, when it was imposed 38 years ago, it didn’t. More misdemeanor trials occurred, but not felony.

That old ban has eroded over the years.

It’s appropriate to restore it as it pertains to sentencing. Judges will handle all of the sentencing in these cases.

This new policy speaks well for the state.

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