The nation’s attorney general says he’s planning a trip to Alaska in order to witness its tribal courts and how they address violence against women.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski called upon U.S. Attorney General William Barr to support tribal justice provisions included in a bill that reauthorizes the lapsed federal Violence Against Women Act.

The bill passed the House last week on a 263-158 vote according to Roll Call, with support from Rep. Don Young.

According to a statement from Murkowski’s office Wednesday, the amended House bill recognizes tribal rights to prosecute non-Alaska Natives for a number of domestic violence crimes.

“The House bill would expand the scope of included domestic violence crimes and include crimes against children and crimes against law enforcement officers,” Murkowski’s staff wrote. “The House bill also included a pilot project enabling up to five Alaska tribes to assert Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction in Alaska Native villages whose population is 75% or more Alaska Native.”

Murkowski described the diverse state of tribal justice Wednesday after Barr’s testimony in a Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee hearing regarding the Justice Department’s budget for fiscal year 2020.

 

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a chance to bring you up to the state so we can get you out into some of these villages, see how these tribal courts are functioning and, again, better explore the opportunities to provide for a level of safety,” Murkowski said during the hearing. “I do appreciate you including the 5% tribal set-aside from the Crime Victims Fund. I think that this is going to make a difference.”

Barr says he already has a trip to Alaska scheduled.

“I think Alaska Native women face unacceptably high levels of violence in very remote areas and I’ve actually scheduled a trip up to Alaska specifically to visit some of these communities,” Barr replied. “And so I would approach this with a great deal of sympathy for the need to think outside of the box and to do something that’s effective in protecting this vulnerable population and I’m prepared to work with you to try to fashion something that will work.”

Barr’s travel plans come as tribal justice issues receive growing attention at the federal level. The Justice Department is awarding nearly $2.5 million to three Alaska tribal groups to support crime victims, after Murkowski spoke out in November regarding government reporting of missing and murdered Alaska Native and Native American women.

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