Yup’ik Alaskan one of 10 to receive national award for justice advocacy

Only 10 people from across the country are getting an award on April 27, 2016 for their work to get a second chance for people with a criminal record. One of them is a Yup’ik Alaskan.
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Greg Razo, is in Washington DC to accept a White House Champion of Change award.

“I’m proud to represent Alaska and Alaska Native people as we strive for equity in justice, in the criminal justice system,” said Razo.

Razo spent almost 20 years in private practice. He’s now general counsel for the for-profit Native corporation Cook Inlet Region, Inc. He said his commitment to equity in justice got its start early in his career when he served as a state prosecutor in Kodiak.

“I’ve seen prison be a revolving door for, for very, very many people. I would prosecute some of the same people over and over for all the time I was a prosecutor,” said Razo. “For three years I’d see the same people in and out, in and out.”

Razo is vice-chair of the Alaska Native Justice Center and chair of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, which recently issued a report saying Alaska’s criminal justice system is costly and ineffective and needs an overhaul.

Razo said the main reasons two out of every three Alaskan prisoners end up back in prison is the lack of treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, and the need for vocational training.

“None of those supports are in place for people coming back into society, re-entering society. And it’s that re-entry function that must start at the very beginning when a person comes into prison,” said Razo. “They must begin with a plan that will help them to be successful when they get out of prison.

Razo said legislation making its way through the state Legislature would fix 90 percent of the problems.

Joaqlin Estus is a reporter at KNBA in Anchorage.

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