Anchorage district attorney's resignation rekindles SB 91 debate
Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion has offered his resignation to pursue private law practice in Anchorage, citing the state's criminal-justice reform law as one of the issues he's faced in office.
"It's going to be a good professional and personal opportunity and good for my family," Campion said Friday.
Campion says there is nothing negative about his departure, saying it's time to take on a new challenge.
"It's not easy to depart from the administration I worked for. They've been good to me," Campion said.
Campion has been district attorney for Alaska's largest city since May 1, 2015. He has worked for the state Department of Law for nine years in all. Prior to that he served as an Army judge advocate for nine years, including three years as lead prosecutor on Fort Richardson.
Asked about his biggest accomplishment as district attorney, Campion said he's kept the office focused on violent crime and been able to hire good staff, young attorneys who are enthusiastic and capable in their positions.
Campion said criminal justice reform and Senate Bill 91 are among the challenges he's faced. He said he hopes people in the law-enforcement community are vocal with their perspective on the law, along with community members.
In particular, he is concerned that criminals see the law's handling of crimes as favorable to them, and think "that the consequences aren't as severe as they were in the past."
"Possession of drugs is now a misdemeanor with really no consequence," Campion said.
Campion said that state and local law enforcement officers are now limited in their ability to develop drug investigations when dealing with drugs such as meth or heroin.
Two Anchorage lawmakers, Democratic state Reps. Andy Josephson and Matt Claman, took opposing views on SB 91 Saturday in light of Campion's pending resignation. Josephson, who has consistently spoken out against the bill, said the district attorney's comments reiterated his existing concerns.
"My first thought is, it's a real loss to lose someone senior like that and seasoned and experienced," Josephson said. "It echoes what one superior court said in sentencing, (which) is that this bill is unworkable. One judge commented he can't imagine this is what the Legislature had intended."
But Claman said it's the state's ongoing fiscal woes -- not SB 91 -- that have reduced state prosecutors' ability to prosecute lower-level crimes.
"Budget challenges are the same reason we have to look at justice reform," Claman said. "Because if we said we wanted to lengthen the prison sentences for non-violent offenders and put drug offenders in for longer, we're going to build two more prisons; the public is going to say, 'You can't build two more prisons.'"
Campion's resignation is effective Oct. 6.
Heather Hintze contributed information to this story.