The group that calls rural Alaska justice the worst in the United States visited Anchorage Wednesday to explain the ways they believe the system fails Native communities across the state.
In a report prepared for Congress, the bipartisan Indian Law and Order Commission points to the near-complete lack of infrastructure in many rural communities as one of the biggest problems.
75 communities across the state have no law enforcement presence at all, according to the report.
Another fundamental flaw is the centralization of government given the remoteness of many Native communities, according to the commission.
Both of those factors lead to slow response times when a crime is committed or an emergency is unfolding.
Mike Jackson, a Kake resident who attended the hearing, agreed there is a problem: "In a village where there aren't any courts, they need to have things addressed in a timely fashion," he said.
The best fix, according to the commission, is for Native villages to become classified as Indian country.
"It will mean that the state and the villages will share criminal jurisdiction on native lands in Alaska," said Carole Goldberg, a member of the commission.
Department of Public Safety acting commissioner Keith Mallard said he agrees response times would be faster if every village had a VPSO, but he points to improvements over the years by the department.
"A couple of years ago, the number of VPSO positions we had was around 45 and now we're upwards of 121 positions," Mallard said. "Those are incredible increases, and the fact that we've been able to fill most of those positions and keep them that way is a testament to just how dedicated we are."
Mallard said he does not agree with certain recommendations of the commission.
"They talk about the need to establish Indian Country," he said. "I think that is an entirely separate issue then addressing public safety in this state [If] you want to have the Indian Country, non-Indian Country debate, that's fine but that doesn't speak directly to what the issue is.
"That's improving public safety in our rural communities."
The commissioners plan to meet with Alaska lawmakers about the plan, but they will only be around for a couple more months: the commission is set to expire at the end of January 2014.
The commission admitted it is not the first to take on the issue of failing justice in Rural Alaska but said "it should be the last."
Channel 2's Austin Baird contributed to this report