Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/23/1995 08:00 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HSTA - 03/23/95 HB 2 - BOOT CAMP FOR NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS Number 015 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS stated they had heard testimony on HB 2 in an earlier meeting, and during the discussion, there was concerns expressed by the Administration, which have been remedied by the proposed committee substitute for HB 2 presented to the committee at this time. Changes from the original bill included placing an age cap of 26 years on those who would be eligible for the program and allowing the Department of Corrections to select candidates for the boot camp program. Representative Willis stated it was not his intention to allow the boot camp program to be a bargaining chip during trial. Also, the Administration was concerned about the language alternative boot camp in the bill, and so this was deleted and replaced with the term contract boot camp. Finally, in the proposed committee substitute, the Superior Court Judge was eliminated from the boot camp advisory board. He thought Jerry Shriner, Special Assistant to Commissioner Pugh of the Department of Corrections, would be able to explain the changes better, and so would like to hear his testimony. Number 112 JERRY SHRINER, Special Assistant to Commissioner Pugh of the Department of Corrections, stated the Department of Corrections was in favor of this bill. They thought the bill sponsor has been very cooperative in taking the departments concerns into consideration. There were a few changes they would like to see, but thought they were trivial and could be dealt with at a later time. As an example, they would have liked to see the age cap of 26 years on candidates a little higher, but were reassured this could be amended at a later time. With reference to the issue of contracting out a boot camp facility, he wanted to assure the committee the department was not against the idea of contracting this facility, but was concerned the original language of alternative could be interpreted as meaning the department could operate its own boot camp facility and be required to also operate a private alternative boot camp program. The department wanted to avoid having to run two boot camp facilities. They were not trying to limit this bill to allowing only a state run boot camp facility. He added earlier, he had mentioned a computer program the department was getting, which would allow them to get some ideas on how to best operate and staff this facility, how long candidates should be held in this facility, and the type of parole conditions that should be on them. He said they had this program now and had run some scenarios for this proposed facility. One thing this program had demonstrated, was that the sponsor was correct in not allowing the boot camp program to be used as a condition of parole by the courts. This was because the department was trying to use the boot camp program as a means of reducing the prison population. If the intent is to use the boot camp program as a means of reducing prison population, then you must be careful to insure that candidates for the program would have gone into prison otherwise. He thought the state must be extremely careful to not allow this facility to become a plea bargaining tool to expand our prison population. The department was still gathering data to find out how many prisoners would qualify for the program. He said the department would have this information available later as the bill continues through the committee process. He stated he would be glad to answer any questions from the committee. Number 188 CHAIR JAMES asked whether there was any economic conclusions from their computer model or other studies. MR. SHRINER replied there were not any economic conclusions specifically, but the program does allow for some extrapolation of calculations for cost savings. He said the computer program does provide information, such as whether there will be a net increase or decrease in the prison population and the results arising from this. In their use of the program, the department has found it would take approximately two years to realize a 100 bed reduction in the prison system. From information such as this, the department can make some extrapolations as to the cost savings of the program. He wanted to clarify though, that their preliminary research indicated the normal day to day operation of a boot camp facility was more expensive than that of a normal prison facility. The savings from a boot camp program result from the fact they are designed to be short duration programs. Cost savings are realized from the ability to move people into the system and provide the training, punishment, and reformative factors in a much shorter period of time with a hopefully lower recidivism rate. Finally, he wanted to state that research indicated that simply holding someone in a boot camp program does not lower the recidivism rate without coordinating this detention with other educational programs. The benefit only results from placing a candidate in a boot camp program, which then allows them to more successfully complete other programs, such as educational training or substance abuse programs. Number 263 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER asked if they had looked at the federal model of boot camp facilities, operated by the Army National Guard. He pointed out that they do not go through a period of discipline and then follow it up with an educational program, but rather combine it. MR. SHRINER agreed, saying he did not mean to imply the programs would have to be operated consecutively, but rather would be run simultaneously. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked about the expected duration of the boot camp program. MR. SHRINER stated it was an expected duration of approximately 150 days. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER realized this was within the parameters of a municipal misdemeanor sentence and wondered whether the program could accept misdemeanor offenders from municipalities. MR. SHRINER stated the program could accept misdemeanor offenders, but this would have to be weighed depending upon the goals of the program. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER verified whether the federal youthful misdemeanor offender classification went up to about 26 years of age. MR. SHRINER said he was not sure. Number 299 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked for an explanation of why a boot camp program would cost more to operate than the typical hard bed prison facility. MR. SHRINER explained the operating costs were higher, because it takes additional staff to facilitate the additional discipline and educational programs associated with a boot camp program. Because you were doing a larger amount of program management and discipline, you needed a higher staff to prisoner ratio. Thus, the costs of operating a boot camp facility on a daily basis was higher. He wanted to reiterate though, that the cost of the physical facility for housing the program was lower, because these were minimum to medium security prisoners. Number 336 CHAIR JAMES noted the arrival of Representative Robinson at 8:26 a.m. She said she thought the advantage of this type of program was the lower recidivism rate. She asked if he had any data on this from any of their computer models or studies. MR. SHRINER stated they had not completed their studies of this issue, but the information they had gathered showed mixed results. They were still trying to determine why some programs were successful and others were not. CHAIR JAMES commented her other question was whether there was a point where, based on the volume of prisoners in the facility, there was a cost-savings to the state, based upon the size of the facility. MR. SHRINER thought her implication that the larger the facility, the more efficient it might be, was probably correct. He said there was a limited number of people who would currently qualify for this program, of about 230-245 prisoners. He said he was not sure of how fast the turnover rate of prisoners in the program would be. At this point, they were estimating a program of about 50-100 prisoners. In terms of cost savings, he thought it was probably more efficient to run a facility of about 200 inmates, but did not see this volume as feasible in Alaska. Even with the smaller facility, the Department of Corrections estimated a net savings to the state over a two year period. Thus, he thought they could operate effectively, if they were careful in designing the program, who they selected as candidates for the program and consistently applied the other educational programs as a follow up to the boot camp facility. He said they were still examining how they could reconfigure populations in their other facilities across the state, after selecting inmates for the boot camp program. He mentioned there was some federal money available for construction of boot camp facilities, with the theory of detaining minimum to medium security prisoners in these programs and allowing more room for incarcerating higher risk prisoners in other facilities. While agreeing with this concept in principle, he felt it was difficult to achieve this with our small population. Number 409 CHAIR JAMES commented this was typical of the economics of this state, where you had a large state with a small population. She mentioned to Representative Willis, the bill sponsor, that there was earlier a rather large fiscal note for construction of the boot camp facility and wondered whether it was still applicable. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER was curious whether there was the possibility of partnering with the existing boot camp facility of the Army National Guard. He said he would be interested in the answer to this question if the Department of Corrections would not mind researching to find out. He said he had personally observed this program and thought it was very effective. Number 439 CHAIR JAMES said she would like to pass this bill out of committee. She asked if the a committee member would make a motion to that effect. REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN supported the concept of a boot camp facility, feeling this would help to teach discipline to younger offenders. He said his only concern, was the large fiscal note attached to the bill. He wondered where we would make cuts to fund this bill. CHAIR JAMES answered that this committee needed to concern itself with whether it would be to the benefit of the state to have this option in the statutes. She noted that if the fiscal note was a problem, this bill probably would not receive a hearing on the floor of the House. She thought that there was some real potential in the option of contracting such a facility out. Number 476 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN concurred with the comments and concerns of Representative Ogan. He wondered whether there had been any consideration of using any of the recently abandoned military locations as a site for this facility. CHAIR JAMES said she was sure there had been some consideration of this, and also wanted to point out that in the past, when a statute was signed into law and not funded, the tool was still there at a later date for implementation when the funds were available. She thought this might be the case with this bill. If the option is not in the statutes, then it is not available even if the funds are found. She thought this was another reason to justify passing this out of committee. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN mentioned he would like to see a similar program for juvenile offenders. He thought this might be the most cost-effective use of this type of program. CHAIR JAMES commented this also would have a large fiscal note. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER thought this need had already been met and available in the form of the Army National Guard program. CHAIR JAMES asked for a committee member to make a motion to adopt the proposed committee substitute for HB 2, version F, dated 3-16-95, as the working document for the committee. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS moved to adopt the committee substitute. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any objections from the committee. Hearing none, the motion passed. She asked for a motion to pass this bill out of committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE IVAN commented that he agreed with the philosophical concept of this bill, but with the states current financial situation, he would be forced to vote in opposition to this bill. Number 541 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON responded that the legislature was putting more laws on the books to toughen penalties for crime, and somewhere in the future, they were going to have to look at options for incarceration and building new prison facilities. Thus, even with the tight budget, she thought it was a good idea to get this option in the statutes as an alternative. She expected the state was going to have to build more prison facilities to deal with the growing inmate population, and thought this was the best approach. MR. SHRINER wanted to mention there was research by the Department of Corrections to use existing facilities at Fort Richardson and Fort Greely. He said there was nothing definite, but there was some real possibilities. They were also sending representatives out for training in operating these types of facilities at the expense of the federal government. They were not expecting to receive additional funding, but thought they would gain some extra knowledge. They thought they might learn of ways to build cheaper facilities and gain access to federal funding. Number 566 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved to pass CSHB 2 out of committee with unanimous consent, individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any objections. Hearing none, the bill was moved. She called Representative Irene Nicholia to testify on HB 239 as the bill sponsor.