Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/07/1999 06:07 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 1(JUD) "An Act conditioning the award of good time and release on mandatory parole on the attainment of certain minimum educational standards for prisoners serving certain sentences." Senator Dave Donley spoke to this bill. This issue came up during discussions studying the propensity for prisoners to reoffend once they were released. Many studies showed that the number one factor in recidivism among felons was whether or not they could read and write. It was found that many states were beginning to adopt standards prisoners obtain their GED before release that required for good time credits that shortened sentences that. He noted that Alaska was one of the few states that did not comply with the federal standards of serving 85% of sentences. SB 1 stated that in order for prisoners to have good time release, they had to obtain their GED. He felt this would be an incentive and referenced TV privileges. The bill was amended in Senate Judiciary to allow for those prisoners that did not have the capacity to obtain their GED. He listed the exemptions, language barriers, age and social circumstances. The bill only applied when the GED program was available so an inmate that did not have that program available, they would not be discriminated against. He spoke of examples from other states. An example of how bad the problem was, Alabama tested inmates as they entered the system and found that the recitism rate mirrored the education rate. If a prisoner was released and could not read or write it would be difficult to get a job and they would be tempted to return to crime. He spoke to the fiscal notes. Co-Chair John Torgerson pointed out that there were new fiscal notes that were not zero. Senator Dave Donley added that this would apply only to those serving more than two years. Senator Al Adams felt the bill was a good concept but needed some changes. He felt an incentive needed to be added. He said the amendment was not written correctly but he hoped Senator Dave Donley would help correct it. Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if this would leave the original good time release in place but only add an additional sixty days early release. Senator Al Adams affirmed but added that this amendment was in its early stage and felt it would reduce the fiscal note. Senator Al Adams answered it would and explained. Co-Chair John Torgerson page 1 lines 9-12 said that if the inmate already had a diploma and - would that amendment change that section. His point was that if you already had your diploma when entering, ROXANNE STEWART, staff to Senator Al Adams, clarified that the intent was that if you already had your diploma, you would not get the additional 60 days off. Senator Dave Donley spoke of the national standards and said that Alaska was behind. This amendment would move away from truth in sentencing. It did make progress toward motivating prisoners to get an education. Senator Dave Donley asked about the provision for the 99- year mandatory sentencing. Senator Al Adams said that portion was a drafting error and should not be included. Senator Dave Donley commented that it was a policy call. Senator Al Adams said the problem with the truth in sentencing issue was that it was difficult to measure between states. Many states had shorter initial sentences. He referred to earlier testimony heard in committee relating to other bills. Co-Chair John Torgerson had a similar thought based on the fiscal notes, but also understood Senator Dave Donley's concerns. Senator Dave Donley offered another middle ground option to go halfway. Without the GED prisoners would be eligible for only half the 33.3%. He believed that many prisoners would be getting their GED's and would not affect the fiscal notes as greatly as predicted. Senator Lyda Green wanted to know if in the attachment to the PDA fiscal note they brought up a good point. Who would do the testing to see who would be exempt from the provision? She speculated it would become expensive if the department had to pay for the psychologist to analyze the prisoner's ability to get the GED. Senator Dave Donley allowed that if a great number of prisoners challenged they were not capable. The department would have to find a way to do that. However, he felt the benefits of the education would outweigh the long run costs of reoffenders. Senator Lyda Green commented that some may be able to make educational advancements but still be unable to earn their GED. She suggested some allowances be made for those efforts. Senator Dave Donley said other states set different standards and that could be done here as well. Senator Gary Wilken noted fiscal note #5 comments. Co-Chair John Torgerson asked for clarifications of Senator Dave Donley's suggestion of halving the requirements. Senator Dave Donley said he would need assistance from the drafters. The intent was to allow those who did not get their GED, they would only obtain half of their reduction rather than not get any early release. Senator Dave Donley aquested to Senator Al Adams's comments that different states had different measurements. BRUCE RICHARDS, Program Coordinator, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Corrections, testified. Senator Al Adams explained that they were trying to use the good time release, as an incentive to get prisoner's to obtain their GED. He wanted to know if this would affect the department in the different *. Bruce explained his understanding of the two amendments. Senator Al Adams's would reduce the amount of the fiscal notes because it would not affect the good-time release for incarceration time. Senator Dave Donley's would affect. Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if the department anticipated a negative fiscal note with the adoption of Senator Al Adams's amendment. Bruce thought it might. He noted that there could be costs because the burden of proof as to how had their diplomas would fall on the department. He didn't think that would be very costly. Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to know if it would be possible to use Senator Al Adams's concept on a sliding scale. 60 days for a two-year sentence. 90 days for a 5- year sentence. Bruce commented on the incentive for inmates receiving less compensation as the next prisoners did. He also said it could be complicated for the department to implement. Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if it would be a big incentive difference for the inmates if *. Bruce would have to research. He still felt if would be a zero fiscal note for either scenario. Co-Chair John Torgerson said the goal was to get the prisoners to obtain their GEDs, which offered a better incentive. Bruce commented that if it were him personally that he would be motivated by the potential for early release. BLAIR MCCUNE, Deputy Director, Public Defenders Agency, Department of Administration, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. This had been a good discussion. He felt there would be difficulties for his agency on enforcement. There would be a zero fiscal note. He pointed out page 2 line 18-30 he felt it should be clear that the language of "incapable of obtaining a diploma" That needed to be clarified. An inmate might be capable but not have time to bring himself through the diploma. There was a statute he noted in the analysis section of the fiscal note relating the treatment programs. He felt these mechanisms could be one approach. He commented that prisons were overcrowded and prisoners were often transferred once they entered into a program. He was in favor of testing for GED. Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to know if Alaskan prisoners house out of state had access to these programs. Bruce affirmed they did. Co-Chair John Torgerson requested Senator Dave Donley to work on his amendment. Senator Al Adams asked if they could work to draft one amendment to address. Co-Chair John Torgerson ordered the bill held in committee.