Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/14/1995 08:07 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.