Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/07/1999 06:07 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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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.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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