Legislature(2013 - 2014)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/10/2014 08:30 AM FINANCE
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CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 56(JUD) "An Act relating to certain crimes involving controlled substances; and providing for an effective date." 8:59:38 AM SENATOR FRED DYSON, Sponsor, discussed the legislation noting that the bill was driven by two or three factors. He pointed out to the committee that the majority of the state's drug laws were put into place in 1982 and were seldom revised. He reported that, in much of the nation, states were now reevaluating classification and sentencing criteria due to incarceration costs. He furthered that Alaska had one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States. He opined that if the state continued on its current trend additional facilities would be needed within four to five years even though the state recently spent $250 million on a new prison. He also pointed out that prisoner reentry remained a challenge. He hoped the legislation would help to remove some of the obstacles inmates face upon release. He explained that certain opportunities were not available to anyone with a felony conviction. He cited that approximately 1,500 jobs and benefits were not accessible to felons. He detailed that Alaska's drug treatment programs were quite effective in the state's system. He mentioned that he took a very high view of the law and that legislators created statute law through being elected by the people. He wanted the laws to state his values and that they be proportional. He reemphasized that drug laws needed revamping. He deferred to Chuck Kopp to review a slide presentation with the committee. 9:02:30 AM CHUCK KOPP, STAFF, SENATOR DYSON, discussed the PowerPoint Presentation "SB 56 - Reclassifying Small Quantity Drug Possession" (copy on file). He began with slide 2 through slide 5: "A Balance of Justice and Proportionality in the Law," which provided a list of 12 examples of class "C" felonies to be used for a comparison basis. · Misc. Involving Controlled Substance 4th Degree (MICS 4) AS 11.71.040(a)(3)(a) C Felony A person possesses any amount of a schedule IA or IIA drug. o Example: Possession of one grain of a pain killer like hydrocodone without a prescription. The law currently has no dosage matrix to discriminate between trafficking, peddling, and simple possession. It is no defense that the amount of drug was not a useable quantity, only that the substance be positively identified in a narcotics test. · Assault 3rd Degree - AS 11.41.220(a)(1)(a) C Felony A person causes fear of imminent serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument. o Example: A person points a firearm at the head of another person and threatens to kill them. · Stalking 1st Degree AS 11.41.260 C Felony o Example: A person engages in a "course of conduct" with a victim (i.e. following them, entering their property, contacting by phone, delivering items to victim) and places victim in fear of death or physical injury and the person possesses a deadly weapon. · Sexual Assault 3rd Degree AS 11.41.425(a)(1)(2) C Felony o Example: A person engages in sexual contact with a person who he knows is mentally incapable, incapacitated or otherwise unaware and unable to consent to the sex act. Or, a prison guard engaging in sexual penetration with a prisoner. · Indecent Exposure 1st Degree AS 11.41.458(a) C Felony o Example: A person knowingly exposes his genitals to a child while masturbating. · Vehicle Theft 1st Degree AS 11.46.360 C Felony o Example: A person, having no right to do so, steals a car, truck, motorcycle, motorhome, airplane, or boat of another person. Or, a person steals a police car. · Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Adult 1st Degree AS 11.51.200 C Felony o Example: A person fails, without lawful excuse, to provide support for a vulnerable adult and the vulnerable adult is in the person's care by authority of law and the vulnerable adult suffers serious physical injury. · Promoting Contraband 1st Degree AS 11.56.375(a) C Felony o A person illegally brings a firearm or drugs into a prison. · Possession of Child Pornography AS 11.61.127 C Felony o A person knowingly possesses child pornography. · Unlawful Furnishing of Explosives AS 11.61.250(a) C Felony o A person gives explosives to another knowing that the person intends to use them to commit a crime. · Sex Trafficking 3rd Degree AS 11.66.130(a) C Felony o A person, with intent to promote prostitution, manages, supervises, controls or owns a place of prostitution. · Cruelty to Animals AS 11.61.140(a) C Felony o A person intentionally inflicts severe physical pain or prolonged suffering on an animal. Or, a person knowingly kills an animal with intent to intimidate or threaten another person. Mr. Kopp reported that the felonies listed were proportionally treated in Alaska's law. The purpose in providing the information was to discuss whether or not the state properly equated the offenses or if it over criminalized simple possession. He informed the committee that SB 56 reclassified small quantity possession for first time offenders to a class A misdemeanor. He turned to slide 6: "Class A Misdemeanor Offense": Class A Misdemeanor Offense Penalty - Up to 1 year in prison, $10,000 fine - A serious charge and penalty · Assault in the Fourth Degree AS 11.41.230 o A person "recklessly causes physical injury to another person" or "with criminal negligence... causes physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument." This can include domestic violence, as defined in AS 18.66.990. · Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI) AS 28.35.030 o A first and second Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge · Resisting or Interfering with Arrest AS 11.56.700(a) o A person knowing a peace officer is making an arrest, and with intent to prevent the arrest, resists the arrest of himself or interferes with the arrest of another by force. · Official Misconduct AS 11.56.850(a) o A public servant knowingly, and with intent to obtain a benefit or to injure or deprive another of a benefit, performs an unauthorized exercise of his official function; or refrains from performing a duty of his office. 9:07:05 AM Mr. Kopp continued to slide 7: "SB 56 - Distinguishing between traffickers, peddlers, and addicts": · SB 56 creates an "Escalating Punishment" system, similar to the State's approach to DUI's, Theft, Criminally Negligent Burning and Assault. Key features: o Reclassification of small quantity possession to a Class A misdemeanor o "3-strikes" Rule. Gives person a chance for meaningful reform, if they screw up twice, and fail to participate in their own rehabilitation, the next offense results in a felony charge. o Strict quantity limits; over the limit = implied distribution = felony. o No restrictions placed on law enforcement or prosecutors to pursue drug manufacturers and dealers, regardless of quantity (i.e., evidence of manufacturing or selling drugs = felony). · This should lead to reductions in: o Prison incarceration costs o Legal and adjudication costs o Low-risk offenders being placed on felony probation o Re-entry barriers for simple possession offenders getting out of prison o Reduction in indirect costs, such as public assistance for med., housing & food · Significant cost savings while maintaining public safety. Mr. Kopp stated that SB 56 introduced a new dosage matrix into the law to help the state differentiate between traffickers, peddlers, and addicts or people simply caught for possession. He acknowledged that not all people caught for possession were addicts. He informed the committee that the drug data showed that only a third of the people caught for first-time possession were actually addicts. He remarked that strict quantity limits, the third item listed under escalating punishment on the slide, were modeled after Wyoming's law. 9:09:16 AM Mr. Kopp advanced to slide 8: "Alaska's Prison Population Growth." He stated that the red line signified the increase in the number of beds with the addition of Alaska's Goose Creek Correctional Center. The blue line indicated the projection of the growing prisoner population. He specifically directed the committee's attention to where the two lines crossed - when the state would be at capacity again. He anticipated that it would cost the state another $250 million or more for an additional prison. Mr. Kopp referred to slide 9: "Drivers of Alaska's Prison Population Growth": 1. Increased admission for Felony Theft in the Second Degree-theft of property valued over $500-and increased sentence lengths associated with these offenses. 2. A 63% rise in prison admission for drug offenders, particularly felony offenders convicted of possession offenses. >>Addressed by SB 56 3. Increase in Petitions to Revoke Probation (PTRP's) and probation violations. >>Connected to number of offenders on felony probation; greatly impacted by SB 56. •Source: DOC Memo, Factors Driving Alaska's Prison Population Growth, at 1 (August 24, 2012). 9:10:19 AM Mr. Kopp discussed slide 10: "Alaska Court Cases File with MICS4 Charge." He elaborated that the slide showed the number of misconduct cases involving controlled substance fourth degree charges. In 2008 there were over 600 charges filed and in 2013 about 1,100 were recorded. He emphasized that the number of charges almost doubled in the time period. Not all of the charges were possession offenses, but one-third to one-half were misconduct involving a controlled substance fourth-degree involving several subsets of charges. Mr. Kopp turned to slide 11: "Collateral Consequences from Small-Quantity Drug Possession Felonies": · "Our legal system has created barriers to work, education, business opportunities, volunteerism, and housing - the very things that are necessary to prevent recidivism."- Senator John Coghill · Alaska ranks number one in the nation for state- created legislative and regulatory barriers to successful reentry for individuals with a criminal record, according to the national Legal Action Center (LAC). -Deborah Periman, Alaska Justice Forum 30 (3- 4), UAA Justice Center · Offenders who complete their sentences seldom, if ever, stop paying for their crimes · Barriers to reentry into society after prison effect 1 of 31 Alaskans. o Medicare/Medicaid facilities - federal law o Anchorage School District - district policy o North Slope - Private HR decision · Difficulty to find housing · Restrictions on ability to adopt, or receive placement of foster children · Inability to qualify for public assistance benefits on release from prison · Ineligible to become a Village Public Safety Officer · SB 56 allows Alaskans to avoid many of these consequences, if they are not repeat offenders. Mr. Kopp mentioned an amendment that went before the House Judiciary Committee in which someone was referred to treatment if they were charged as a first-time offender. The treatment amendment was in Section 3 of SB 56 where they were required to satisfy the screening, evaluation, referral, and program requirements of a drug abuse evaluation program. 9:12:38 AM Mr. Kopp moved on to slide 12: "Reduced Legal and Adjudication Costs." He indicated the slide showed the reduced legal and adjudication costs between felony and misdemeanor cases in district and superior courts. It also showed the mean and median number of days to disposition for a felon and misdemeanant. The court system stated in its fiscal note that the new system would save the state money but noted a zero fiscal note and remarked on the difficulty in quantifying a specific amount of savings. He went on to explain that superior court judges cost more, empaneling grand juries was costly, witness testimony was costly, and that a person tried with a felony was afforded a higher level of legal counsel. 9:13:32 AM Mr. Kopp discussed slides 13 and 14: "SB 56 - "A Fiscally Conservative Policy": · Legislative Research Service identified approximately $14M in annual cost savings, the majority of which came from DOC · Office of Public Advocacy Fiscal Note - There will likely be a decrease for OPA in the cost of providing contract attorney defense services. Estimate $250,000.00 savings in FY 2013. Savings of $1,100/case @ 255 cases. Indeterminate note. · Public Defender Agency Fiscal Note - Will reduce the cost of processing individual cases…will reduce the overall cost growth rate of the Agency's budget. Zero fiscal note. · Dept. of Corrections Fiscal Note - In 2012, there were 427 MICS 4 convictions which carried an average length of stay of 188.1 days…the department could see a potential reduction in man days of 54,186.3 days. Indeterminate fiscal note. If only half these convictions were impacted by this bill, it would save over $4M each year. · Department of Law Fiscal Note - The fiscal note is indeterminate. Generally, reducing an offense from a felony to a misdemeanor creates a savings in the criminal justice system. · DPS, Alaska State Troopers Fiscal Note - Passage of this bill would not change the investigative process regarding these offenses and will have no fiscal impact on the Division of Alaska State Troopers…a zero fiscal note is being submitted. · DPS, Laboratory Services Fiscal Note - A zero fiscal note. 9:14:57 AM Mr. Kopp highlighted slide 15: "Public Safety Impacts": · 13 States have reclassified some Schedule I and IIA drugs from felony to misdemeanor possession based on a dosage matrix include Wyoming, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Deleware, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. · Alaska's adult incarceration rate is 537 per 100,000 - BJS Prisoners in 2012 Report · Average adult incarceration rate of these 13 states is 490 per 100,000. · Five (5) of these states have a higher adult incarceration rate per 100,000 (665 avg) - Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina & Tennessee. · Eight (8) states have a lower adult incarceration rate per 100,000 (381 avg) - Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Mr. Kopp cited that there were 10 states that reclassified possession of small quantities of heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine to a misdemeanor charge for a first-time offender. Three states reclassified cocaine possession including Maine, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. Mississippi was prosecutorial discretion only whether a person was charged with a felon or a misdemeanor. Mississippi was an outlier because its incarceration rate was so high that it pulled up the average. It had the second highest incarceration rate in the nation coming in at just under 1 thousand per 100 thousand. 9:16:43 AM Mr. Kopp continued to slide 16: "Public Safety: 2012 Statistical Comparison." He noted that the chart showed where Alaska was at in terms of crimes and incarceration rates in comparison to other states and the nation. He reported that Alaska, compared to the reclassification states grouped together, had significantly higher violent crime rate, similar property crime rate, and a similar incarceration rate. Alaska, compared to all of the states, had a significantly greater violent crime rate, a somewhat lower property crime rate, and a parallel incarceration rate. Alaska, measured alongside the 10 states that reclassified only heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine to first-time small-quantity possession misdemeanor, had an elevated violent crime rate, a comparable property crime rate, and a slightly higher incarceration rate. He surmised that it was difficult to draw a causal relationship between crime reclassification and an impact to public safety. Mr. Kopp presented slide 17 "Kleiman, Mark (2012, Apr 22) Rethinking the War on Drugs, Wall Street Journal": · The U.S. has reached a dead end in trying to fight drug use by treating every offender as a serious criminal. Blanket drug legalization has some superficial charm-it fits nicely into a sound-bite or tweet-but it can't stand up to serious analysis. The real prospects for reform involve policies rather than slogans. It remains to be seen whether our political process-and the media circus that often shapes it-can tolerate the necessary complexity. · "For every complex problem," H.L. Mencken wrote, "there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." Mr. Kopp advanced to slide 18: "Probable Outcomes of SB 56": · Balance of justice and proportionality in our laws · Large reduction in barriers to reentry for offenders, improvement in employability · More persons successfully restored to a healthy lifestyle · Minimal impact on public safety · Significant fiscal savings · The proposed bill language is more conservative than that of Wyoming, a state that is not a bastion of liberalism, and has had good results. Mr. Kopp disclosed slide 19: "Support": · Alaska Native Justice Center · Alaska Mental Health Board · Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse · Central Peninsula Hospital · CPH Behavioral Health Associates · Walt Monegan, APD Chief, Retired · Carmen Gutierrez, Recent DoC Deputy Commissioner · Niesje Steinkruger, Superior Court Judge, Retired Mr. Kopp supplied a list of entities that supported the legislation. 9:19:35 AM Senator Dyson pulled out an expired bottle of Oxycodone acetaminophen which did not contain any medicine. However, he contended that if it did he could be arrested for possession under current law. He also surmised that if the bottle were tested and residue of a drug was found he could be subject to being arrested. He referred to an article in members' packets regarding a professional person who had been charged with possession for having an expired prescription bottle containing drug residue in his custody. His life was ruined as a result. He emphasized that the intent of the bill was not to be soft on crime but to get proportionality in the law. He was impressed with the list of all the class C felonies that were equivalent to his example in the law. 9:21:06 AM Co-Chair Stoltze asked the senator to provide the committee with a copy of the case so that it could be evaluated by Anne Carpeneti an Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Law. Senator Dyson agreed. 9:21:43 AM KRIS SELL, VICE PRESIDENT, ALASKA PEACE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION, represented 900 current and retired police officers from the State of Alaska. The association did not support the bill. She contended that the bill was not on the right track and, based on real life experience, small quantities were dealer quantities. Dealers typically carried "points" which were equal to a tenth of a gram. The bill would provide dealers with more opportunities to involve people in the drug world. She understood the intent of the bill was to avoid having to give harsh punishments to people acting out of curiosity or who made a mistake. She emphasized that the offenders she was concerned with were drug dealers. She admitted that the current system had problems, and that treatment and accountability were large components of helping people to conquer their addictions. She concurred with some things she had heard from the Department of Law about its position on the issue. Some of the pleas that could come from post-victim relief from professional drug dealers who had pled out to charges would want a misdemeanor rather than a felony charge. On behalf of the Alaska Peace Officers Association she asked the committee not to be among the states that went softest on hard drugs and to oppose the legislation. 9:25:37 AM Co-Chair Stoltze asked for a written position statement. Ms. Sell stated that there was a copy of a letter in the committee packet sent to the sponsor of the bill. Representative Gara asked if there would be an opportunity to direct a question to the Department of Law. Co-Chair Stoltze said there would be time later in the meeting for Representative Gara to ask his question. GARY FOLGER, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY (DPS), referred to potential foreseen and unforeseen consequences of the bill. He deferred to his special assistant to provide the department's assessment. 9:28:00 AM KELLY HOWELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, read the DPS prepared testimony: There is no doubt that substance abuse is a significant contributor to crime in Alaska. Yet even given this statement, we acknowledge that possession of small quantities of certain schedule IA or IIA substances for a first-time offender is more proportional to misdemeanor rather than felony behavior. The expectation is that a misdemeanor penalty for a first offense can serve as a wakeup call and potentially deter offenders from future drug offenses or other crimes. Whether this same philosophy should apply to a second-time offender is a matter we ask the legislature to take under further consideration. Subsequently, we also encourage additional deliberation on the quantities identified as "non- distributive" or "small amounts" as proposed in Senate Bill 56. The Alaska State Troopers' Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) reports that an average per use of heroin is approximately 0.1 grams (100 milligrams) and an average per use of methamphetamine is 0.75 - 1.0 grams. In essence, just less than 500 milligrams of heroin would equate to about five uses and just less than 3 grams of methamphetamine would be about three to four uses. Though these could be considered user-level quantities, we urge closer scrutiny of these levels to avoid a potential unintended consequence of empowering street-level distributors. Another issue relates to the 300 milligram threshold established for LSD. The SDEU reports they rarely encounter LSD in a measurable form. It is usually found in dosage units, with some of the liquid having been absorbed into a more sold form such as blotter paper, sugar cubes, or gelatin. The actual potency levels of each dosage unit can range from 30 to 100 micrograms (1/1,000,000 of a gram). Therefore, the threshold amount currently proposed equals approximately 300 doses. There will also be impacts to the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (crime lab) within DPS. The minimum thresholds established by this bill will require testing of enough of the substance to meet the threshold. For example, whereas now the crime lab may need to positively identify only one tablet to determine whether it was a prohibited substance, analysis of at least 15 tablets (if present) may now need to be analyzed to meet the threshold and burden of proof. This will impact the workload, but the crime lab will attempt to manage it within its current staffing. In closing, we must be careful and thoughtful to ensure a balanced approach to protect the public from dangerous offenders while holding offenders accountable at the appropriate levels, whether it's a felony or misdemeanor. This is a worthy effort that DPS will continue to work with the legislature on this issue. Co-Chair Stoltze asked if DPS would characterize its position as a flashing amber light rather than a green or red light. Ms. Howell replied in the affirmative. Representative Guttenberg asked if the discussion was about an aggregate dosage amount. TERRY VRABEC, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, answered that under current law if someone was caught for possession of a substance a small portion of it would be taken for testing. The legislation would raise the testing portion to five doses requiring more time and effort on the part of the crime lab. 9:34:17 AM Vice-Chair Neuman asked Deputy Commissioner Vrabec for clarity about measuring drug quantities at the time of prosecution. Mr. Vrabec replied that a weight would be taken and included in evidence. However, the department did not test the entire confiscated amount. He gave the example of a pound of cocaine. The department would not test the whole pound, just a portion of it. Vice-Chair Neuman referred to the cocaine example wanting additional clarity. Ms. Howell pointed to page 3, line 2 of the legislation. She explained that the threshold was 15 or more tablets. For example, a person could e under the threshold if they had three tablets and one was determined to be a prohibited substance. However, if the person had 15 or more tablets then each tablet would be tested to verify the substance. Vice-Chair Neuman wondered how the lab would know if all of the tablets were a prohibited substance unless they were all tested. 9:36:57 AM Mr. Vrabec suggested that the Department of Law answer Representative Neuman's question further. Representative Munoz asked about how many people were currently serving under a class C felony conviction in Alaska for drug possession. Co-Chair Stoltze asked Representative Munoz for clarity on whether or not she was asking about possession only or possession in other activities. Representative Munoz replied that she was asking about possession only. Mr. Vrabec deferred the question to the Department of Corrections. RON TAYLOR, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, answered that the number was approximately 427 people. However, some of the 427 people were charged with additional offenses. Co-Chair Stoltze asked if the number was under 100. Mr. Taylor replied that the number of people convicted exclusively for possession was under 100. Representative Munoz asked about the average sentence for the approximate 100 offenders. Mr. Taylor answered that the only number he could provide was the average length of stay for the 427, which was 188 [days]. Co-Chair Stoltze commented on the war-on-drugs warehousing, stating that the high end was 93 late in the fall of the prior year. He opined that there were probably extenuating circumstances because the state's system did not have the capacity for people arrested for simple possession. 9:38:50 AM RICHARD SVOBODNY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, made general comments. ANNIE CARPENETI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, LEGAL SERVICES SECTION-JUNEAU, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, stated that the Department of Law (DOL) did not oppose the bill but specified three concerns. The department's first concern was sending the wrong message to Alaska'a youth that, by reducing possession of some of the really serious drugs, they would not consider them as dangerous to use as they really were. The department's second concern was that the state did not have probation supervision for misdemeanants like it did for felons. A provision was added to SB 56 allowing for supervision by Alaska's Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) for people convicted of fifth degree possession. However, ASAP supervision was not like Department of Corrections supervision for probationers. She continued to explain that ASAP was an office-based program; ASAP's probation officers sent a letter to a judge if they became aware of a probation violation. Whereas, DOC probation officers had a very different protocol; they had a much more active hands-on approach to supervision. She emphasized that people with addictions needed serious supervision in order to overcome their dependencies. 9:43:02 AM Ms. Carpeneti communicated the department's third concern; the bill, in its current form, did not increase treatment opportunities. People released under the circumstances required help such as housing and rehabilitation to avoid reentering the life that led to their initial conviction. Mr. Svobodny expressed his doubts that the bill would help to reduce crime numbers. He stated that untreated drug users of the category of drugs covered in the bill (i.e. methamphetamine, heroin, and LSD) were a danger to themselves and their families. He furthered that they presented a public safety danger to the rest of society. He detailed a survey he completed of the District Attorney (DA) offices across the state regarding trends in drug use in urban areas. He began his survey in Bethel to get a base by going outside the urban areas. He reported that heroin was a large problem in the bush. In interviewing every other DA office he discovered that black tar heroin was widely used in Alaskan communities. All urban areas saw a decrease in the use of cocaine and prescription medication and an increase in the use of cheaper heroin. He opined that heroin was a large problem in the State of Alaska and in the country. He pointed out that the governor of Vermont, in his state-of-the-state address, spoke exclusively about the state's existing heroin problem. Mr. Svobodny agreed that the heroin problem in Alaska needed to be dealt with and applauded Senator Dyson for attempting to address the issue. However, he expressed his concerns with reducing drug possession crimes to misdemeanors and did not believe that SB 56 would address the ancillary crimes committed by drug users. He reported asking the Anchorage DA office about other problems with drugs. The DA responded that burglary and check fraud were the most common crimes associated with drug use. Both crimes provided a means to fund further drug use. He elaborated that other consequences accompanied drug abuse as well. 9:49:46 AM Mr. Svobodny addressed Representative Munoz's question by entertaining another question. He asked how many people were incarcerated for misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth-degree, a class C felony possession charge. He revealed the answer was a range of 44 to 124 people as of October 1, 2013. The reason for the range was because at least half of the people were charged for other offenses including felony assault level crimes, theft in the second-degree, and probation revocation. He asserted that the police were not performing reverse buys where a policeman sold drugs to a person then turned around and charged them with possession. 9:52:34 AM Mr. Svobodny addressed the fact that people were getting arrested for possession offenses because of other criminal activity. He cited that over a period of ten years a sheriff in San Diego County tested everyone that came into the jail on a specific day once a quarter for controlled substances. The sheriff indicated that 90 percent ingested some type of controlled substances on the day they were tested. Mr. Svobodny believed that it was critical to deal with the people who were committing the auxiliary crimes by housing them in jail. Although the bill required an assessment by the Department of Health and Social Services, it did not fund assessments, drug testing, or residential treatment programs. He contended that it would be more likely for felons to receive a felony probation officer who would require reporting, look for symptoms of drug use, do random searches, and perform drug testing than for a misdemeanant to receive equitable services. 9:56:15 AM Co-Chair Stoltze asked whether Mr. Svobodny would support a reduced sanction for first-time possession offenders as proposed by DPS. Mr. Svobodny responded affirmatively with hesitation. He noted that the system would deal with the changes presented in the bill. Representative Stoltze wondered whether Mr. Svobodny would throw a case out if the police initiated a sale and subsequently arrested the buyer for possession. Mr. Svobodny confirmed that he would throw the case out. 9:58:11 AM Representative Guttenberg told of his experience growing up and the drug availability he witnessed in New York City and Fairbanks. He opined that drug problems had only worsened in the past 50 years. He suggested that the continued crack down on the use of drugs was an ineffective deterrent. He acknowledged Senator Dyson bringing forth new legislation on the issue. He surmised that increasing penalties and fines did not help in reducing the problem. He discerned that part of the reason for the legislation was to avoid having to build more prisons and referenced a representative from Texas. He inquired about what worked in past years. 9:59:54 AM Mr. Svobodny relayed that Jerry Madden, a representative from Texas, suggested that rather than putting drug abusers behind bars they should be placed in treatment. He asserted that treatment worked. Mr. Svobodny pointed out that DOC had the ability to have prisoners serve jail time at home or with electronic monitoring. He furthered that the bill before the committee only partially addressed the problem. Co-Chair Stoltze opined that the Madden example did not translate to Alaska. Vice-Chair Neuman agreed with Mr. Svobodny about the effectiveness of drug treatment programs for offenders. He noted that drug abuse was an addiction. He inferred that low-level sentencing did not allow enough time for offenders to be placed into treatment prior to their release. He stated that often treatment was a condition of parole. One of the challenges for felons was to find work to help to pay for their treatment. He suggested offenders would potentially rob from others to pay for treatment in order to meet the conditions of their parole. He asked if it was a trend. 10:02:50 AM Mr. Svobodny replied in the negative. He did not want to suggest that longer jail sentences were a way to deal with getting offenders treatment. He commented that in dealing with a person with an addiction it would be better to treat them for addiction rather than putting them in jail. He suggested that the problem was people were burglarizing to pay for their addiction. He opined that many of the addicted resorted to being small distributors in order to maintain their habit. He believed that the state needed a program in place where people addicted to drugs were supervised. He emphasized that treatment should come before jail time. Co-Chair Stoltze suggested that the bill would be heard again before the committee at a later date. 10:05:18 AM Representative Wilson asked about the number of people in jail with misdemeanor charges and the length of their sentences. She also asked if jail time for misdemeanants was affected by the court system being bottlenecked with cases. She wondered if the problem pertained to a backup in Alaska's court system or whether felony and misdemeanor charges needed to be changed. She wanted DOL to come back to the committee with the answers to her questions at another time. Co-Chair Stoltze suggested Representative Wilson meet with Ms. Mead to get the answers to her questions. HCS CSSB 56(JUD) was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.