Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/12/1995 01:17 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 2 - BOOT CAMP FOR NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS Number 650 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked the sponsor of HB 2, Representative Willis to speak on his bill. REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS, Sponsor of HB 2, said in 1994 he introduced legislation relating to boot camps for nonviolent first- time adult offenders. He stated the bill before the committee is an updated and final version of that bill. It includes the ideas of those interested in the boot camp concept, and addresses the need of the Department of Corrections with regard to this proposed program. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he feels that placing nonviolent first- time felony and misdemeanor offenders in a prison setting is not the best way to accomplish rehabilitation for that offender. He said providing an alternative to prison time and an opportunity to learn discipline and acceptable behavior will offer these offenders a chance to avoid further encounters with the law. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said, "The bill before you would offer the boot camp as an alternative program for first-time convicted felons or misdemeanants under the age of 26. Individuals convicted of crimes, such as homicide, assault, kidnapping, sexual offenses and offenses involving the use of a deadly weapon would not be eligible for this option." He went on to say, "The emphasis here is on nonviolent first-time offenders. At least 24 states operate boot camp programs. As can be expected, each state offers the program to different groups. For example, in 1993, Virginia's program was limited to nonviolent new felony offenders 24 years of age or under, and did not allow felons convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, and so on to participate in the program. Massachusetts' program, in 1993, was for male offenders under the age of 40." REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS stated he had submitted to the committee various articles and studies concerning boot camp programs. He said he believed a boot camp program could help to address many problems from prison overcrowding to recidivism rates. He went on to say a boot camp program has the potential of providing many long term benefits and he would urge positive consideration of this bill. Representative Willis said he had submitted to the committee a draft amendment to this bill, which was requested by the Department of Corrections. The amendment would give the department another tool it needs to make the program successful. He continued, under the current proposal, individuals who successfully complete the boot camp program might have to be placed back into the general population to await parole hearing. Representative Willis said this amendment would allow a pre-release furlough while awaiting the hearing. In his opinion, placing a person who has successfully completed the boot camp program back into the general prison population would not be beneficial to the person involved in the program. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS related that since he appeared before the State Affairs Committee, he also submitted a newer version of the fiscal plan and Mr. Jerry Shriner of the Department of Corrections, is here to speak to the new fiscal note. Also, since this bill was before the State Affairs Committee, Mr. Shriner has been to Washington and conferred at some meetings on this particular issue. Representative Willis said he hesitated bringing this back to the committee until Mr. Shriner returned to Alaska so this committee would have the benefit of his knowledge. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said if it is the desire of the committee, he would relinquish his seat to Mr. Shriner. Number 725 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE told Representative Willis that he did support his legislation, as he did last time, although the idea of boot camps to him, would involve younger offenders, and yet you are including people up to the age of 26. He asked if that was to allow a young person to be sentenced and serve out a sentence, or would Representative Willis envision a 26-year-old person being assigned to boot camp. Number 730 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS answered as he understood it, any person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, 26 years of age or younger, that is in the hands of the Department of Corrections, could be eligible for this program, but it would be under the age of 26. Number 745 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if, when they reach 26 they are not removed from the program? There's not an upper age limit. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS replied you mean if they happened to be 26 when they went into the program and they had a birthday after? REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said if they were 20 when they went in and they had a seven year sentence. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS responded that boot camp is only 150 days. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said, okay. If they were 26 and had a birthday the day after sentencing. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS answered he would assume they would complete the 150-day program. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked for clarification on the fact the prisoners are only eligible if they are under 26. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS answered yes. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he thought he heard him say 40. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS stated they changed that back to 26. He said some states do allow an upper age limit. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY understood they have to be 25 years of age to enter the program. CHAIRMAN PORTER said they can't be more than 25. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS corrected this, saying they can't be more than 26 years old. CHAIRMAN PORTER said for the information of the committee he thinks the age 25 is the youthful offender (indisc.) the federal programs. CHAIRMAN PORTER welcomed Mr. Shriner back from Washington. JERRY SHRINER, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, gave a little background for the committee. He began, "Boot camp programs have been around in various states for a number of years, since the mid- to early 80s. Several programs have developed and there were problems with some of the earlier programs. The primary problems had to do with the abuse of inmates, either a direct or indirect result of the emphasis on the discipline and physical training that goes into these programs. Much of that has been taken care of through proper staff training supervision, study of the programs and the way they operate, careful hiring practices." Mr. Shriner said he is convinced, after talking to many of the people from the 26 states that have programs, that they can be operated humanely, safely, and effectively. He stated that was his biggest concern so he was glad to gain that part of the information. MR. SHRINER related he felt he should address why the fiscal note was changed. Again, it has to do with people who have operated these programs. It was pretty clear that all of these programs operate as minimum security facilities. In the original fiscal note, it was said the program would be designed with facility issues, and you have program by facility, aimed to meet the needs of minimum custody prisoners. He continued saying all of the programs he really would take a look at are minimum custody facilities, and staff report essentially every case of discipline problems, escapes, violence between inmates or by inmates against staff are practically unheard of. MR. SHRINER said that his philosophy and the experience in the normal prison facilities, the combination of hard work, the discipline that is imposed from the time they are there, all of these programs carefully select inmates. They have that option. The average prison does not have to pick and chose which ones you want to work with. He said all of those things combined make these relatively low risk groups of individuals with whom the Department of Corrections works. He stated the point of the program is that in terms of designing a facility, you can design one with lower security ratings. You don't need as much fence. You don't need as many electronic gauges. There's a lot of things you don't have to put into these kinds of programs that you would have to put into a medium security facility, for example. MR. SHRINER related respective to the amendment that was proposed having to do with furloughs, the original legislation would allow an early parole for those folks who had successfully completed the program. He said one of the things that again virtually every state that has these programs has found, is that a big part of it is because the program moves rapidly. It's 150 to 180 days in most states, and a lot happens in that period of time. To make this thing happen requires a fair amount of reinforcement. Mr. Shriner continued much of the effects of 150 or 180 day programs would be lost if the person then had to go back to a regular prison population and wait what would be a typical 120 days from the time they successfully complete the program until the time they can get a hearing before the parole board to be granted parole. MR. SHRINER said what the department suggested to the sponsor was to allow the Commissioner of Corrections the option of granting furloughs to those individuals who successfully complete the program because that is something that could be done the last week, or the last two weeks, when it was obvious the person was going to successfully complete, they could be granted a furlough in a somewhat less structured environment, but still under 24-hour supervision, and they could stay there during that time the parole hearing was being processed. Mr. Shriner stated the Department of Corrections supports that and believes it is an important part of making the program function effectively. MR. SHRINER stated he supposed he had to talk about money since it is related to the fiscal note, but the crime legislation that was passed in 1994, federal crime legislation, set aside $24.5 million, which, at this point, is only being dispensed for two things. He said they are making small $50,000 grants to states to do criminal justice planning, and grants of up to $2 million to states that are either renovating facilities or building new facilities out of which they intend to operate boot camps. Mr. Shriner went on to say that in legislation that is through the House, and will be before the Senate later on in May, there will be somewhere between $6 billion and $10 billion over the next five years dispensed in all probability in block grants to states, and much of that money will be aimed at what is known as "violent offender incarceration." Mr. Shriner said the point of it is to, in some way, assist states in making sure there is room in their prisons to incarcerate violent offenders. MR. SHRINER said we are somewhat fortunate in this state in that despite the fact that the prisons are overcrowded, he doesn't think there have been any violent offenders put out on the streets for lack of space for them to be incarcerated. This is not true of other states. Georgia is an extreme example where a violent offender may get ten years and end up serving five or six days. He said they simply did not have room for people at the inn. Mr. Shriner said the point of the legislation and the reason that they will be not only providing capital money as they are now, but will in all probability be providing operating money for boot camps and other kinds of alternative sanction programs, is for precisely that reason. He stated it is not that Congress has suddenly taken a turn to intermediate sanctions. Congress has said we want violent offenders incarcerated and in order to do that we are willing to do some things we might not otherwise advance. For example, boot camps, community work service programs, and all kinds of intermediate sanctions. MR. SHRINER said the reason he was telling the committee this is to say that the fiscal note shows a capital reduction in what was originally projected as a $5 million capital investment. The Department of Corrections is now saying it's $3 million, in large part because we believe we can build a facility with less security, and, in fact, may be able to build it in connection, not physically connected to, on the grounds of some other facility such as the minimum security facility at Palmer, at Wildwood, or some other place like that where there is some space and possibly some other resources to apply to reduce the costs. MR. SHRINER stated in terms of operating costs, the only difference on the new fiscal note is the department applied more recent data with regard to the cost to operate a prison bed in this state than he had at the time he followed the original fiscal note, so that reduced the costs somewhat. He said at the same time, he applied 5 percent inflation factor that the... TAPE 95-46, SIDE A Number 000 MR. SHRINER said he thought that explained the difference in the fiscal note and the department's need for the furloughs. Number 070 CHAIRMAN PORTER stated Chairman Kott will kill him if he's late again to one of his meetings, so he asked the Vice Chair to take over. He did have two questions first. Are there enough prisoners left in our system to make this a viable program? He pointed out they were cutting out violent offenders and it seemed to him most of the activity done is already cut out. MR. SHRINER answered that it is a close call, frankly. He said the department was concerned about two things in the bill. The Department of Corrections would just as soon the age went to 30 years, for example, rather than 25. The first offender also limits that pool considerably. You could easily have a second offender, a second burglar for example, the person could be 21- 22-years-old, have a second burglary, maybe has three or four years to serve. He may be a good candidate for this program, but would be excluded. Mr. Shriner said that would increase the pool of people that are available. The short answer to Chairman Porter's question is, the last time I looked there were some 233 individuals who are in minimum custody that are 25 years and under. He said he has not sorted out which ones of those are violent offenders. He said he suspects there are perhaps 100 of those who would really qualify for this program and what they are looking at is probably a 50-bed facility. So, the short answer is yes, I believe there is. CHAIRMAN PORTER said he didn't see this the last time through, that being the successful completion of this would put someone in the position of the discretionary parole. He asked if this would put them in the position regardless of a determined sentence that they had? MR. SHRINER responded that it was his understanding that it would, but he is not an attorney so he will pass on that, as he is not sure. CHAIRMAN PORTER took his leave and turned the meeting over to Vice Chairman Joe Green. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any other questions of Mr. Shriner. He stated that Mr. Shriner had made a tremendous change on the fiscal note, and he wondered if, given another two weeks, Mr. Shriner could get that to where they would pay us? REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if it would be fair to say that the Department of Corrections is estimating about $20,000 per prison bed, that would be $40,000 per year per prison bed, but about $20,000 per prisoner because they would be eligible for parole after they completed this? You're talking about $2 million and 100 bed years. MR. SHRINER replied, 120 people. He stated the current rate is $107 a day average across the system. If they are in there 150 days, yes, the cost for one of those individuals for the 150-day program is going to be about $15,000. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY remarked that it was going to be the same cost as the existing programs. MR. SHRINER answered that, in fact, the cost per day is more in existing programs. In other words, in low level security the average cost may be $107. The people in this program may otherwise be in a facility that operated at a lower cost where security is lower. He said on the other hand, they are only in this program for half as long perhaps. The other end of that is virtually everyone who operates these programs will tell you that it is not enough to simply put someone through 150 or 180 days in a boot camp program. Mr. Shriner stated you have to provide a variety of other services such as counseling, education, and intensive supervision along with it and after it. He said the cost of probation and parole is higher for this group of people than for somebody getting out of prison after two years. Mr. Shriner related these states have found when you tie the whole project together, you're probably spending less on the boot camp people than on a normal imprisonment simply because you've shortened up the prison time so much. He said the net effect is a smaller cost, but if you only look at the daily cost it looks more expensive. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any more questions. REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY inquired about the recidivism rate for these people. MR. SHRINER stated the recidivism rate in well-run programs is better although it's not like half. It's like 2 or 3 percent and some of the programs have dropped 5 or 6 percent. It can be fairly significant, but the services have to be provided that go along with it and do a good job of it. He said it's not a guarantee by any means. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any other questions of Mr. Shriner or the sponsor. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE remarked that he didn't think 5 percent recidivism rate was a good rate. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he thought the recidivism rate differed by 5 percent. MR. SHRINER said that was correct. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated if the recidivism rate was 5 percent, there would be no prison population. MR. SHRINER agreed with Representative Bunde, but stated most states run 20 to 30 percent recidivism rate. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked what the wish of the committee was, if there were no further questions. Number 200 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move amendment one, which states: page 1, line 3, following "eligible for", insert "furloughs and; page 2, following line 2, insert a new bill section to read: "*Sec. 3. AS 33.30.111 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (g) A prisoner who has successfully completed the boot camp program under AS 33.30.182 is eligible for a prerelease furlough under this section under regulations adopted by the commissioner under AS 33.30.101 regardless of whether the prisoner has served the portion of the term required under (d) of this section."; renumber the following bill sections accordingly. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if that was the one dated 3/27/95? REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE affirmed the date of 3/27/95, page 1, line 3. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Representative Willis if he would like to speak to the amendment. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied that the amendment had been spoken to, but not passed yet. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS stated that would give the Department of Corrections the tool it needs to make the program successful. It would allow a prerelease furlough while awaiting the hearing. He said that is the thrust of that particular amendment. VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there was any discussion or objection to the amendment. Hearing none, the amendment passed. (Indisc. -- static on tape). REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked where does it say (indisc. -- static) anyone who is on their second prison term wouldn't qualify? MR. SHRINER said page 3, line 23. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said he must have misunderstood the testimony because he thought only first offenders would be able to qualify. MR. SHRINER replied that he may have misspoken himself as this issue was discussed and what it actually said was "cannot actually have participated in a boot camp program" and then the other conditions for eligibility. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move CSHB 2(JUD). VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN (indisc. - static) asked if there was any objections. Hearing none, CSHB 2(JUD) was moved out of committee.