Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/23/1995 08:00 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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              
 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              
 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             
 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                       
 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                
 Number 566                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved to pass CSHB 2 out of committee with              
 unanimous consent, individual recommendations and attached fiscal             
 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.                                        

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