Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/14/1995 08:07 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HSTA - 03/14/95                                                               
 HB 2 - BOOT CAMP FOR NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS                                   
                                                                               
 Number 129                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS read his sponsor statement for the committee.           
 It read as follows:                                                           
                                                                               
 "In 1993, I introduced legislation relating to boot camps                    
 for nonviolent, first-time adult offenders.  The bill                         
 before you today is a refined version of that 1993 bill.                      
 It represents the work of the Eighteenth Legislature's                        
 Health, Education and Social Services Committee, and                          
 contains changes and suggestions requested by                                 
 legislators, correction professionals, and other persons                      
 interested in the legislation.                                                
                                                                               
 "I feel that placing nonviolent, first-time felony or                        
 misdemeanor offenders in a prison setting is not the best                     
 way to accomplish rehabilitation of this offender.                            
 Providing an alternative to prison time and an                                
 opportunity to learn discipline and acceptable behavior                       
 would offer these offenders a chance to avoid further                         
 encounters with the law.                                                      
                                                                               
 "The bill before you would offer the boot camp as an                         
 alternative sentence option 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 deadly weapons would not be eligible                     
 for this sentencing option.  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 male felony offenders 24 years or                       
 under and did not allow felons convicted of murder,                           
 manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, etc., to                            
 participate in this program.   Massachusetts' program, in                     
 1993, was for male offenders under the age of 40.                             
                                                                               
 "I have submitted to the committee various articles and                      
 studies concerning boot camp programs.  I believe that a                      
 boot camp program could help us address many problems                         
 from prison overcrowding to recidivism rates.  A boot                         
 camp program has the potential of providing us with many                      
 long-term benefits.  I would urge positive consideration                      
 of this bill."                                                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS wanted to point out, having made his opening            
 statement, that the bill before them does not have an upper age               
 limit of 26 years.  That omission would be caps he wants to have              
 put back into the bill.  Other states use a cap of 25 to 26 years             
 old is the age used.  He spoke to Mr. John Shriner, and said the              
 Administration had some concerns in Section 1.  He asked for the              
 Chair to allow him some discretion in working with the                        
 Administration on the points they brought up that should go into              
 the bill, including this age cap.                                             
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES had no objections to Representative Willis's request.             
 She felt that he had a good start on the bill and asked if another            
 week would be enough to work with the Administration to get the               
 language so it will be more compatible.                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN had a concern about the fiscal note.  He asked           
 if these people going to boot camp if it would be in lieu of other            
 incarcerations.  It would seem less expensive than conventional               
 prison, so there should almost be a positive fiscal note.                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS recommended that Mr. Shriner address the                
 issue.  As he said, there is no facility now for a boot camp                  
 program, and the fiscal note addresses the building of a facility.            
                                                                               
 Number 242                                                                    
                                                                               
 JERRY SHRINER, Special Assistant, Department of Corrections,                  
 concurred with what Representative Willis said.  If the state were            
 to take this course, it would require a separate or detached                  
 facility on the ground.  To qualify as a boot camp in this bill,              
 and in most other programs, individuals in the boot camp could not            
 be mixed into the general prison population.  It wouldn't fit with            
 the theory of why boot camps are beneficial.  Also, if one requires           
 a boot camp to operate, a facility would need to be constructed.              
 There is no available space in any existing facility that could be            
 converted to use without capital costs, so there is a fiscal note.            
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES commented that the capital expenditures would be                  
 $5,000,000.  She questions the $2,062,300 in the upcoming years.              
 She assumes this would be for operating costs and wondered if the             
 note meant it would be more to have them in boot camp than it would           
 be in other incarceration.                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said that wasn't it, but if they built a 50-bed                   
 facility of any kind, whether it was boot camp or medium security             
 facility, it would be the operating costs for that institution.  He           
 said the state does not have the capacity to convert any existing             
 facilities for a boot camp program, nor is there the existing                 
 staff.                                                                        
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if he thought this would be on top of the amount            
 of money we are already spending to incarcerate people.  In other             
 words, the number of people would be so few who would be                      
 transferred to this program that they would not notice a difference           
 in the cost of other operations to offset this program.                       
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said they based the fiscal note on a count of                     
 individuals in the prison system on the day it was done.  That was            
 about 30 days ago or more.  There were 255 people in the system who           
 would qualify for this boot camp.  However, inmates would move                
 through the boot camp facility faster than they would move through            
 the current prison system, because of certain sections in the bill            
 that relate to discretionary parole and so forth.  There would not            
 be a need to build a facility for the whole 255.  They could                  
 account for a number of people going in and out of the system, and            
 from that group of 255 people, 50 would be left.  Therefore, a                
 facility to handle a group of 50 people would be adequate.                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if we have any people currently                    
 incarcerated who would qualify for this program.                              
                                                                               
 Number 335                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said that under the conditions of this bill, the                  
 Commissioner of Corrections could find 255 people who would qualify           
 for this program.                                                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said that is where he was coming from.  The              
 fiscal note was based on 255 beds, when a 50-bed facility would be            
 adequate.   He thought it was unfair to burden the bill with the              
 entire cost, or a fiscal note based on that number of people.  They           
 were freeing up beds in a more restrictive incarceration area to              
 allow people to go to a less restricted and less expensive                    
 incarceration, yet burdening that group with the cost of building             
 a new facility.  He thinks the cost should be spread and that the             
 people opening beds up for harder crimes should be taken into                 
 account on the fiscal note.  With the current legislative attitude,           
 which is to avoid spending money, this could kill this bill, when             
 it may be very much to the benefit of the state.                              
                                                                               
 Number 357                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said the department shares that concern; in fact, the             
 federal government is revising or refining its regulation for the             
 distribution of capital money from the most recently passed federal           
 crime bill, and some of that money is earmarked for boot camps.               
 They are near maximum capacity, so there is no chance that they can           
 close a wing and save some money.  He said he would like to do                
 that, but it is not possible.                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked why we don't show we are offsetting the            
 contempt of court citations by reducing our overcrowding through              
 this process.  That would be a benefit to the state.                          
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said that at this point the department does not intend            
 to pay those fines, so there is nothing to save.                              
                                                                               
 Number 369                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said if the Department of Corrections had               
 control of the client population, then they could do the kinds of             
 the things we have asked them to consider.  They don't; they get              
 their plans from another direction.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 379                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON was unsure of how they could show it, but             
 once they got the system set up, getting nonviolent offenders into            
 the boot camp, they would be saving money.  They have to build a              
 new facility, but if this is not done we may have to build another            
 hard bed facility which could cost much more money.                           
                                                                               
 MR. SHRINER said he believed she was correct.  He could not promise           
 anything, but after reading more information he found there is a              
 private consulting firm on the East Coast that has a program that             
 could give them some figures about the costs and savings.  He could           
 provide those figures in a week or two.                                       
                                                                               
 Number 409                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES said she would carry the bill over to the next meeting.           
                                                                               

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