Nome’s Anvil City Square, with a giant gold pan and statues of the “Three Lucky Swedes” whose discovery kicked off the 1899 Gold Rush, is seen on Sept. 5, 2021. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Nome’s Anvil City Square, with a giant gold pan and statues of the “Three Lucky Swedes” whose discovery kicked off the 1899 Gold Rush, is seen on Sept. 5, 2021. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Proposed class-action lawsuit claims Alaska prisons are holding people without criminal charges

A woman from Stebbins has sued the Alaska Department of Corrections, alleging that she and many other people in the state prison system have been unconstitutionally held in custody for more than 48 hours without being charged.

Barbara Pete, represented by the Northern Justice Project, filed suit Oct. 6 in Nome. The suit was first reported by the Nome Nugget.

According to court documents, Pete was arrested in Stebbins for domestic violence-related assault and taken to Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, where she waited for more than two days to receive a judicial determination of probable cause.

The suit requests that a state judge issue a declaration that the Department of Corrections “has violated and is violating Article I, Section 14 of the Alaska Constitution by incarcerating Alaskans who were arrested without a warrant without a prompt judicial determination of probable cause.”

Nick Feronti, an attorney with the Northern Justice Project, is representing Pete and said they intend to seek class-action status and are trying to hear from others in her position.

“I would not be surprised if other people came forward,” he said, adding that he has already talked to public defenders whose clients have experienced similar charging delays.

Feronti said he believes there are problems statewide, but that the issue is most prominent in the Nome region.

Three years ago, Superior Court Judge Romano DiBenedetto formally scolded the Anvil Mountain superintendent and local district attorney for charging delays.

“It has come to my attention that there is a continuing issue of arrestees being remanded to AMCC without charging documents thereafter being filed,” DiBenedetto wrote.

That memo was written during the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted criminal court operations across the state, but Feronti said he believes the issue is continuing and needs attention.

The Department of Corrections had not been formally served with the lawsuit as of Friday. Deputy Commissioner April Wilkerson said by email that the department did not have an initial comment and would respond in court at the appropriate time.

• James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This article originally appeared online at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 8

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Man dies after being struck by truck while laying in drive-through lane near Mendenhall post office

Armando Sanchez, 38, struck during early morning hours of June 1; JPD notified of death Tuesday.

Curtis Davis sharpens a spike at his makeshift campsite near Juneau International Airport on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
With no official place to camp, homeless and neighborhoods alike are suffering miseries

Complaints to JPD nearly double, social agencies seek “safety zone,” many campers just want peace.

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Peter Maassen receives applause from his fellow justices and members of the Alaska Legislature during the annual State of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at the Alaska State Capitol. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy will be asked to pick fourth state Supreme Court justice

Applications being accepted to replace Peter Maassen, who reaches mandatory retirement age next year

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, June 10, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska ranked choice repeal measure wins first round of legal challenge, but trial awaits

Correction: The initial version of this article incorrectly listed Alaskans for Better… Continue reading

Juneau resident Ajah Rose Bishop, 21, suffered severe spinal injuries in a single-vehicle accident early Saturday morning. (GoFundMe fundraiser photo)
Woman breaks spine in single-vehicle collision on Egan Drive early Saturday morning

21-year-old Juneau resident medivaced to Anchorage, online fundraising effort underway.

Shannan Greene (left) and Sharyn Augustine hold signs on April 27 urging residents to sign recall petitions for Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen and Vice President Emil Mackey due to their roles in a budget crisis for the current fiscal year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
School board recall petitions submitted; supporters of Saturday cruise ship ban need more signatures

Third initiative seeking to repeal default by-mail elections also has 10 days to get more signers.

Most Read