The Alaska Legislature just united 60 to zero to strike a great blow for restitution for the victims of violent crime by passing House Bill 216. This bill allows the “Criminal Fund” which comes from the Permanent Fund Dividends of incarcerated felons to be used as “bridging monies” to reimburse victims when the perpetrator is unable to do so. It does not release the perpetrator from his or her responsibility to pay the victim or reimburse the “Criminal Fund.” HB 216 also provides dollars for child support and much needed treatment for both victims and perpetrators.
This legislation does not excuse the perpetrator from responsibility for the court ordered restitution but will provide some reimbursement for medical bills, losses, and income. Successive Governors could have fixed this, but did not. Now the Legislature has sent a loud message that, in Alaska, victims come before monies for state institutions. Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, perhaps the most principled and bright legislator in Juneau, deserves great credit for pushing this bill over the finish line. It was a six-year battle. May his tribe increase.