Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/17/1996 01:15 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 379 - VICTIM/JUVENILE OFFENDER MEDIATION                                 
 Number 1348                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER then gave a short synopsis of a proposed CS to HB
 379.  Chairman Porter stated that CSHB 379 is legislation which he            
 firmly believes in.  The Municipality of Anchorage, as a model for            
 this legislature, on a city level is trying to deal with minor                
 offenses of juveniles through early intervention.  This should help           
 ward off these juveniles from becoming increasingly involved in               
 additional crimes.                                                            
 Number 1463                                                                   
 MIKE NIEMEYER, Executive Director, Victim/Offender Reconciliation,            
 Orange County, California, said his program is sponsored through              
 St. Vincent De Paul and that they also receive public money from a            
 surcharge on civil court filing fees.  Last year 1,200 cases were             
 processed using the victim offender mediation approach.  This                 
 program actually began in 1974 in Canada and in Elkhart Indiana in            
 1979.  The values of this program has been around for a while and             
 are well established.  The Orange County Program is seven and 1/2             
 years old and is based on the old concept that it is important for            
 the perpetrator to meet their victim.  This provides for more                 
 victim input rather than the standard criminal justice process                
 which tends to be a offender oriented system.  The Orange County              
 program has three areas of mission purposes: The victims should               
 have a chance to confront their perpetrators, the legislation                 
 provides for the victim being compensated by their perpetrators,              
 and it provides an opportunity for the victim to be involved with             
 their perpetrator's future.  This last element enhances the                   
 victim's sense of restitution.  Mr. Niemeyer added that this                  
 reconciliation concept has been endorsed by the American Bar                  
 Association and a resolution was adopted in August of 1994                    
 supporting the program.  The Orange County program finds that when            
 a victim is given an opportunity to meet with their offender, over            
 70 percent of the victims are willing to participate and will meet            
 with the offending party.  The agreements which come out of this              
 program are very durable.  Over 95 percent of their restitution               
 agreements have been completely fulfilled.                                    
 Number 1804                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked what percentage of the money to support            
 this program comes from the public?                                           
 Number 1822                                                                   
 MR. NIEMEYER answered that funded money is matched through                    
 volunteer contributions and the additional public money comes from            
 community development and local money revenues.  California has a             
 (indisc.) program tax which provides for a eight dollar surcharge             
 on their civil court filing fees.  Some of this money goes to the             
 Orange County program.                                                        
 Number 1889                                                                   
 SUSAN DIPIETRO, Staff Attorney, Juvenile Law, Alaska Judicial                 
 Council, testified to CSHB 379.  She also noted that she is Vice              
 President of the Board of Directors for CERC (Community (indisc.)             
 Resolution Center) and is also a volunteer mediator for the                   
 Juvenile Victim Offender Mediation program.  Much of what Ms.                 
 DiPietro does to evaluate programs is to see that they help to                
 improve the administration of justice.  From her three perspectives           
 as staff attorney, board member and volunteer, she is very much in            
 favor of this legislation.  It would strengthen the work of the               
 victim offender mediation program already in place.  Ms. DiPietro             
 mentioned in addition the benefits of this mediation concept to               
 it's volunteers.  The feeling that they can make a difference or              
 have an impact is very important.  This project has a ripple                  
 effect. It touches all levels of society.                                     
 Number 2062                                                                   
 GARY SCHWARTZ, Juvenile Intake Probation Officer, Anchorage                   
 Corrections, testified to the statistics of how many cases are                
 being processed through the corrections department per year, not              
 all of which are worked through the victim offender mediation                 
 program.  Mr. Schwartz's contact with this program in Anchorage               
 within the last year and 1/2 has been extremely positive.  Several            
 of the cases he dealt with have had outstanding results.  He used             
 an example of cases he deals with fairly regularly.                           
 Two 12 year old youths threw rocks and broke someone's windshield             
 and were charged with reckless endangerment.  These youths did not            
 fully understand the complications of their actions.  It gave the             
 victim a chance to voice their opinion and it gave the juveniles a            
 learning experience, not to mention the restitution which will be             
 Number 2200                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Mr. Schwartz what kinds of serious offense              
 cases go through this mediation process?                                      
 Number 2214                                                                   
 MR. SCHWARTZ replied that petty theft burglary was probably the               
 most serious crime.  For example, a thirteen year old went through            
 an unopened door and took an older citizen's money from a jar under           
 her bed.  The offender was forced to give the victim an explanation           
 of his actions.  There were very good results in this case.                   
 Number 2273                                                                   
 NIKISHKA STEWART, Project Coordinator, Community Dispute Resolution           
 Center, attempted to tie together some of the information already             
 presented.  This mediation type of program maximizes the use of               
 limited resources and is also a community level response to crime.            
 It is a pro-active program.  She also stressed the importance of              
 restitution as a concept.  Ms. Stewart noted the flexibility of the           
 contracts instituted.  No two contracts have been alike and this              
 adds to the victim's satisfaction.  This uniqueness enhances the              
 victim's input.                                                               
 From February of 1994 to date the center has seen over 6,000                  
 dollars of restitution paid back to victims and over 100 hours of             
 work service by the perpetrators served.  Out of 66 referred cases            
 48 reached a contract.                                                        
 Number 2474                                                                   
 KATHY TIBBLES, Social Services Program Officer, Division of Family            
 and Youth Services, Department of Health and Social Services,                 
 testified that the division is in support of CSHB 397.                        
 TAPE 96-2, SIDE A                                                             
 Number 000                                                                    
 MS. TIBBLES said one concern the Division of Youth and Family                 
 Services had was in regard to language about the centers being                
 established by municipalities or non-profits and organized                    
 exclusively for resolution.  This might exclude people they might             
 otherwise work with.  The department was also confused with the               
 statements about obtaining referrals from public and private bodies           
 and the discussion about educating the community and encouraging              
 the use of the services.  It appeared that the centers and                    
 referrals were tied pretty closely to the jurisdictional statute              
 47.10 and Juveniles Alleged to have Committed Delinquent Acts.                
 They weren't sure where the private referrals would come from,                
 although this is not problematic for the department.                          
 Number 110                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER offered that it wasn't their intent to exclude                
 someone.  On those occasions if the court felt it were appropriate            
 under the District Court jurisdiction to refer a misdemeanor                  
 offense they would have the power to do so, as well as the                    
 Number 188                                                                    
 MS. TIBBLES pointed out their remaining concern dealt with what was           
 previously section (f) now (e) of CSHB 397, seemed to limit the               
 information allowed released under the confidentiality clause.                
 Under the circumstances where a referral might be made by the                 
 department through an informal disposition they might not receive             
 any information back.  They wouldn't know whether or not the                  
 offender satisfactorily completed the dispute resolution process in           
 order to close their case.  If the department felt the nature of              
 the offense required petitioning the court, it appears they would             
 not have access to that information or would not be able to take              
 further action if the offender did in fact derail the process.                
 Number 270                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said that this language would be resolved before              
 moving the bill out of the Judiciary Committee.                               
 Number 300                                                                    
 ART SNOWDEN, Administrative Director, Alaska Court System, came to            
 the committee in full support of the concept of this legislation.             
 Mr. Snowden pointed out that this legislation dealt with a                    
 prosecutorial referral program, a process by which a problem is               
 taken care of before it comes to court (in the Department of Health           
 and Social Services normally.)  This legislation relieves a huge              
 problem that the courts presently deal with.  He noted that from              
 1992 to 1995 in Anchorage, children case filings have increased by            
 36 percent; Fairbanks, 34 percent; Juneau, 22 percent; Kenai, 36              
 percent; Palmer, 28 percent.  Children cases are increasing at an             
 unprecedented rate, over 30 percent on average, while funding has             
 not increased.  Any program which ensures restitution is a positive           
 version, while at the same time Mr. Snowden confirmed that the                
 juvenile offenders understand the severity and gravity of their               
 acts is something Snowden applauds.  The committee has the full               
 support of the court system on this legislation.                              
 Number 448                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why this legislation is necessary to               
 accomplish the problem of juvenile offenses.  He interprets this              
 legislation as offering mediation services for a property claim.              
 This is not the type of crime where the state would automatically             
 take charge of the prosecution.  What is to prevent any party to              
 agree to mediation?                                                           
 Number 516                                                                    
 MR. SNOWDEN offered that Representative Vezey was correct.  At this           
 time any prosecuting agency can defer prosecution, however, this              
 legislation codifies these mediation centers and the concepts of              
 their inception to hear juvenile offenses.  He believes this will             
 gain them publicity in light of present prosecution.  The courts              
 have locked arms over the youth court prospects in Anchorage, as              
 citing an example.  While this is a deferral program, publicity has           
 brought a lot of credibility to the process.  Mr. Snowden's                   
 personal view of the juvenile court system is that it doesn't work.           
 If the juvenile is not made accountable for their actions, there              
 will be widespread problems in the existing prosecutorial system.             
 This legislation will institutionalize this mediation program and             
 sets forth standards to be followed.  To involve all levels of                
 society in this juvenile crime problem, including private                     
 mediators, the executive branch, and the courts is a positive step.           
 Some of these juvenile crimes may be deemed too insignificant with            
 the crush of business in the standard court system as it stands               
 Number 672                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY reiterated his first point about mediation and           
 asked if this legislation is about publicity.                                 
 Number 684                                                                    
 MR. SNOWDEN answered that yes it was a publicity issue so that kids           
 will know about it, victims will know about it, Health and Social             
 Services might use it more, etcetera.  Again he reiterated that               
 publicity was a plus and he saw no cost associated with this                  
 legislation.  He noted the rising juvenile crime statistics again.            
 Number 722                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to the section of the legislation               
 which addressed disclosure.  He cautioned against codifying the               
 process of mediation which might make this process less flexible to           
 encompass other crimes.  He also noted the concept of mediation               
 disclosure and understood that participants in mediation are                  
 required to agree to the process.                                             
 Number 810                                                                    
 Mr. Snowden pointed out that you can require someone to participate           
 in mediation, but you can't force them to agree with the results.             
 Even though it does not presently exist, subject specific                     
 legislation could be passed that states, before a law suit is                 
 filed, the participants must first attend mediation.  People cannot           
 be forced into binding mediation.  It has to be voluntary.                    
 Number 853                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that there are distinct differences               
 between mediation and arbitration.  He noted that arbitration is              
 binding on the parties once a decision is made.                               
 Number 883                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER clarified for the purposes of this legislation that           
 the mediation outlined was voluntary.  Either party can drop out of           
 the procedures at any time and both parties are required to agree             
 to the resulting contract of the settlement reached.  If either               
 party does not agree to the mediation results, the case is then               
 referred to the regular court system.                                         
 Number 952                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY again pointed out that his main concern was              
 that codifying this mediation process in legislation now could mean           
 limiting the options available to a claimant.                                 
 Number 976                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked to speak to the question of codifying              
 this mediation process.  She added that the reason is to allow                
 municipalities and non-profits the opportunity to establish the               
 mediation centers whenever they have the need to do so.                       
 Number 1004                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said once again that he was concerned the were           
 legislation was closing doors, which don't need to be closed.                 
 Number 1023                                                                   
 MR. SNOWDEN understood that this legislation strengthens a tool,              
 which already exists.  To write into law, a system that already               
 exists, does not preclude a person from pursing other forms of                
 resolution to a crime.                                                        
 Number 1106                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER spoke to Representative Vezey's concerns regarding            
 codification.  Chairman Porter felt that if the present system can            
 be enhanced and expanded in use with formal recognition through               
 legislation, he supports that.  If this legislation can be utilized           
 by more judges and persons in the Division of Youth and Family                
 Services because of this formal recognition, he is also supportive.           
 It is appropriate to set down minimal guidelines and standards in             
 the bill, which are provided for.  One of the only reasons he has             
 heard for not utilizing this type of service is concern on the part           
 of parents and their respective council that there are no                     
 guarantees of confidentiality.                                                
 Number 1222                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if there would be more interest in this            
 issue if the juvenile code was rewritten to allow for a bigger                
 hammer to fall on those who choose not to use the mediation                   
 Number 1235                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER answered most definitely.  He especially foresees             
 the juvenile hearings becoming more public on the felony levels.              
 This kind of a juvenile mediation program is conducive to                     
 preventing further crimes by juveniles.  This legislation is not an           
 indictment of the system in place, but an indictment of the ability           
 to fund the standard system.   To wrap up the discussion related to           
 CSHB 379, Chairman Porter exclaimed that this legislation has five            
 zero fiscal notes.                                                            
 Number 1325                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE moved that CSHB 379(JUD) be adopted.                     
 Number 1362                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER pointed out that changes suggested by Ms. Tibbles             
 to the CS version will need to be completed before the committee is           
 able to move the bill out of their purview.                                   

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