Legislature(2007 - 2008)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/26/2007 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved HB 35 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved CSSB 105(TRA) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 89(JUD)                                                                                             
     "An Act relating to requiring electronic monitoring as a                                                                   
     special condition of probation for offenders whose offense                                                                 
     was related to a criminal street gang."                                                                                    
This was  the first hearing for  this bill in the  Senate Finance                                                               
9:11:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BILL WIELECHOWSKI,  the bill's  sponsor, explained  that                                                               
this  legislation  would require  gang  members  on probation  or                                                               
parole  to wear  electronic  monitoring  ankle bracelet  devices.                                                               
Increased  gang activity  in  and around  the  Anchorage area  in                                                               
recent years and  the concern that such activity  would spread to                                                               
other areas of the State were factors in this effort.                                                                           
Senator Wielechowski  reported that  122 gang related  cases were                                                               
reported in 2006 and 20 have been reported to date in 2007.                                                                     
Senator  Wielechowski informed  that this  legislation, which  is                                                               
modeled on  the "innovative  approach" San  Bernardino California                                                               
has  taken  to deter  gang  activity,  is  an effort  to  address                                                               
citizens  requests  that  "something  be  done".  Requiring  gang                                                               
members  on   parole  or  probation  to   wear  electronic  ankle                                                               
monitoring devices  has proven  to be  a successful  deterrent in                                                               
San Bernardino.                                                                                                                 
Senator  Wielechowski   explained  that  the  movements   of  the                                                               
individual wearing the ankle bracelet  would be tracked by global                                                               
positioning system (GPS) technology.                                                                                            
Senator Wielechowski  noted that several monitoring  options were                                                               
available, including  one that could  trigger an alarm  and alert                                                               
the probation  officer if  the parolee  or probationer  entered a                                                               
restricted zone,  such as  a high  school. The  probation officer                                                               
could either contact  the parolee or send police to  the area. He                                                               
stressed  that GPS  monitoring systems  have  been successful  in                                                               
prohibiting  gang  members  on   parole  or  probation  from  re-                                                               
associating with other gang members.                                                                                            
Senator   Wielechowski   advised   that  the   Anchorage   Police                                                               
Department,  the  Municipality  of Anchorage  and  the  Anchorage                                                               
School  District considered  this  legislation  a top  priority".                                                               
Letters  of  support  from the  Anchorage  and  Fairbanks  Police                                                               
Departments are  included in Members'  packets [copies  on file].                                                               
"They recognize that  it's better to nip this problem  in the bud                                                               
rather than  see it  spread into outlying  areas." He  thought it                                                               
unlikely that  the gang problems  being experienced today  in the                                                               
State would have been foreseen 20 years ago.                                                                                    
Senator  Wielechowski spoke  to the  bill's indeterminate  fiscal                                                               
note. Two  types of  expenses are  associated with  this program.                                                               
The  first is  the cost  of  the ankle  monitoring device,  which                                                               
ranges from  eight dollars to  $17 per  day. That cost  "would be                                                               
paid by the parolee or probationer.                                                                                             
Senator Wielechowski  identified the second expense  as being the                                                               
cost of monitoring individuals. The  original version of the bill                                                               
called  for "continuous  monitoring". That  effort would  require                                                               
having  a person  monitor paroled  or probationary  gang member's                                                               
movements  24 hours  a day.  One  individual could  realistically                                                               
monitor  15  to 20  individuals.  Either  police or  a  probation                                                               
officer would  respond the moment  an individual traveled  into a                                                               
prohibited zone.                                                                                                                
9:15:25 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wielechowski  communicated  that  the  Senate  Judiciary                                                               
Committee considered  continuous monitoring to be  too expensive,                                                               
and opted  for computer monitoring  rather than  live monitoring.                                                               
Computer  monitoring  technology has  advanced  to  a level  that                                                               
could easily monitor of up  to 100 individuals. This system would                                                               
send  an   alarm  to  an   authorized  individual  via   a  small                                                               
communications device,  such as a Blackberry,  when someone moved                                                               
into a  restricted area.  That individual  could either  call the                                                               
offending  individual or  send a  probation officer  or a  police                                                               
officer, depending on the severity of the situation.                                                                            
Senator   Wielechowski  stated   that  the   Judiciary  Committee                                                               
supported  a  more  passive   monitoring  approach  primarily  to                                                               
contain program costs. The analysis  section of the Department of                                                               
Corrections  indeterminate  fiscal  note #5  depicted  the  costs                                                               
associated with each  of the three monitoring  options. The costs                                                               
ranged from $157,000 to $195,000.                                                                                               
9:17:09 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Olson asked whether those were annual costs.                                                                            
Senator Wielechowski affirmed.                                                                                                  
Senator Olson inquired to the  length of time a probationer would                                                               
be required to wear a monitoring device.                                                                                        
Senator Wielechowski  advised that the length  of an individual's                                                               
probation or parole period would be the determining factor.                                                                     
9:17:46 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dyson  understood  that,  to date,  the  State  has  not                                                               
experienced  "classic patterns"  of  gang activity  such as  turf                                                               
wars or "the  control of a particular criminal  activity" such as                                                               
drug distribution or prostitution.                                                                                              
Senator Dyson  declared that this  technology could be  useful in                                                               
monitoring individuals  who had  committed other types  of crimes                                                               
such as sexual  assault and domestic violence. To  that point, he                                                               
asked  the reason  that  the scope  of the  bill  was limited  to                                                               
individuals associated with gang activity.                                                                                      
Senator Wielechowski  agreed that the devices  could be effective                                                               
in controlling other  crimes. They have been  successful in other                                                               
places   in  deterring   "sexual   offenders;  particularly   sex                                                               
offenders of  little children". The  devices could  be programmed                                                               
to alert  authorities when the  wearer crossed into a  place such                                                               
as a school zone.                                                                                                               
Senator  Wielechowski qualified  that  the bill's  focus on  gang                                                               
related offenders  was strictly  in consideration of  cost. While                                                               
he  would not  object  to  expanding the  scope  of  the bill  to                                                               
include  other criminal  activities, he  cautioned that  doing so                                                               
would significantly increase the fiscal note.                                                                                   
Senator  Wielechowski  suggested   that  monitoring  parolee  and                                                               
probationer   activities  be   considered   a   first  step.   If                                                               
successful, it could be expanded to include other offenses.                                                                     
9:19:49 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dyson concluded  from discussions  with law  enforcement                                                               
personnel  that  gang  related  activities  in  Alaska  were  not                                                               
geographically  centered and  is  spreading outside  of the  area                                                               
where the  parolee or probationer  might reside.  Thus, effective                                                               
monitoring activities might be limited.                                                                                         
Senator  Dyson  asserted  that  restraining  orders  on  domestic                                                               
violence  (DV) "have  very little  demonstrated effectiveness  on                                                               
keeping  the abusers  from going  where they  shouldn't go".  Law                                                               
enforcement  often responds  after the  "order has  been violated                                                               
and or  the damage  is doneā€¦"  Thus, while  he thought  that this                                                               
legislation would  assist in  curtailing gang  related activities                                                               
in the future,  he thought "it would have marginal  affect on the                                                               
criminal  gang activity  now". The  monitoring  device "could  be                                                               
hugely  helpful, particularly  in  DV cases  and  the other  ones                                                               
where somebody has  been terrorized by sexual assault  and has no                                                               
clear way without  this of knowing where their  perpetrator is in                                                               
relationship to them".                                                                                                          
9:21:23 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Wielechowski  agreed that  this type of  monitoring would                                                               
be effective  in addressing DV cases.  Nonetheless, utilizing the                                                               
device to  address gang related  activities was the  top priority                                                               
of the Anchorage and Fairbanks  Police Departments, the Anchorage                                                               
School Board, and the Municipality  of Anchorage including people                                                               
in his Senate District. He  stressed that monitoring gang related                                                               
parolees  and  probationers  would  be a  "strong  deterrent"  in                                                               
containing gang related activities.                                                                                             
9:22:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Thomas  asked whether research has  shown that monitoring                                                               
paroled gang  members is  effective in  reducing the  pressure on                                                               
such an individual to re-associate with a gang.                                                                                 
Senator Wielechowski communicated  there being "strong indicators                                                               
that when  gang members get  out of  jail, there is  a tremendous                                                               
tremendous peer  pressure" to rejoin the  gang. However, research                                                               
indicates that gang  members seek to avoid having  someone who is                                                               
being monitored around them, as  that person's movements could be                                                               
tracked. This has  assisted the paroled gang member  "to get back                                                               
into society" and distance themselves from a gang.                                                                              
Senator Thomas  asked whether the  cost of expanding the  bill to                                                               
include the monitoring sex offenders had been investigated.                                                                     
Senator Wielechowski replied in the negative.                                                                                   
9:23:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SHARLEEN GRIFFIN, Director,  Division of Administrative Services,                                                               
Department   of   Corrections,    spoke   to   the   Department's                                                               
indeterminate fiscal note #5. The  costs of three different types                                                               
of monitoring options were depicted  in the fiscal note analysis.                                                               
The experience  of San Bernardino with  the continuous monitoring                                                               
system  or  "active  GPS"  monitoring"  is  one  monitor  per  15                                                               
offenders. The expense associated with  that system is likely the                                                               
reason the  Senate Judiciary  Committee supported  replacing that                                                               
system with another monitoring option.                                                                                          
Ms. Griffin explained  that "a Passive GPS  system with intensive                                                               
supervision"  would  allow  a probation  officer  to  monitor  20                                                               
probationers. This  system was not  "real time" though.  It would                                                               
download  a tracking  of the  probationer or  parolee's movements                                                               
every  24 hours.  However,  this system  could  be programmed  to                                                               
alert  the  probation  officer  "in real  time"  if  the  parolee                                                               
entered a restricted zone.                                                                                                      
Ms. Griffin  stated that  the third  option, Passive  GPS without                                                               
intensive supervision,  would require  one probation  officer per                                                               
40 offenders.                                                                                                                   
Ms.  Griffin  stated that  fiscal  note  #5 is  an  indeterminate                                                               
fiscal note because  the type of monitoring  system and therefore                                                               
the number of parolees who would be monitored is unknown.                                                                       
9:25:42 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Elton asked  whether the  use  of the  devices would  be                                                               
limited due to availability.                                                                                                    
Ms. Griffin  understood otherwise. The State  could contract with                                                               
a  provider   for  whatever  number   was  required.   She  could                                                               
investigate this further if desired.                                                                                            
Senator Elton asked  that the issue be further  reviewed. He also                                                               
inquired as to which communities could utilize the devices.                                                                     
Ms. Griffin communicated that  electronic monitoring (EM) devices                                                               
are currently being utilized  in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan,                                                               
and Kenai. She would investigate  whether there were areas in the                                                               
State in which EM devices would not work.                                                                                       
Senator Elton inquired  to the process for  determining who would                                                               
be required to wear the monitoring device.                                                                                      
Ms.  Griffin  responded that  the  Department  currently used  EM                                                               
devices  "as  a  form  of   incarceration".  The  Department  was                                                               
uncertain  as  to  the  number of  individuals  the  Court  would                                                               
identify for this program.                                                                                                      
Senator  Elton asked,  for sake  of clarity,  whether the  Alaska                                                               
Court  System or  the Department  of Corrections  would make  the                                                               
Ms.   Griffin  understood   that   the  Court   would  make   the                                                               
determinations.  Further  questions  in  this  regard  should  be                                                               
directed to the Department of Law.                                                                                              
9:28:10 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wielechowski informed  the Committee  that, in  order to                                                               
have  an individual  wear the  EM device,  an aggravating  factor                                                               
must be proven  in Court. In other words, it  must be proven that                                                               
the defendant had  been involved in an offense  or benefited from                                                               
the activity of a criminal street gang.                                                                                         
9:29:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CHUCK COPP, Chief of Police,  Kenai Police Department and Member,                                                               
Anchorage   Violent    Crimes   Task   Force    Law   Enforcement                                                               
Subcommittee,  testified   via  teleconference  from   an  offnet                                                               
location. He noted  that the Anchorage Violent  Crimes Task Force                                                               
was formed  to specifically  address youth  and gang  violence in                                                               
the city.                                                                                                                       
Chief Copp voiced  his support for the bill. EM  is a proven tool                                                               
in  many   states  in  monitoring  violent   crime  parolees  and                                                               
probationers.  It has  specifically been  beneficial in  allowing                                                               
probation officers  to monitor  the activities of  17 to  22 year                                                               
olds   as  it   has   allowed  officers   to  "provide   positive                                                               
reinforcement when  their behavior  patterns are  in compliance".                                                               
This  age  group  is "amenable  to  positive  reinforcement  when                                                               
behavioral patterns do change".                                                                                                 
Chief Copp  affirmed that  the EM  device is  a deterrent  to re-                                                               
associating with a  gang as gangs do not  welcome being monitored                                                               
and tracked. "It is a good tool".                                                                                               
Chief Copp informed the Committee  that Kenai law enforcement, in                                                               
partnership  with   the  Department  of  Corrections,   has  been                                                               
operating  a  pilot  monitoring  program  for  approximately  two                                                               
weeks. Up  to 15 individuals  are effectively being  monitored at                                                               
this  time. Good  data  would be  available  in approximately  12                                                               
months. The  program would  be beneficial to  other areas  of the                                                               
9:31:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Dyson  asked the type  of individuals being  monitored in                                                               
the Kenai program.                                                                                                              
Chief  Copp  reminded  that  the  pilot  program  had  only  been                                                               
operational  for two  weeks. Offenders  being  monitored to  date                                                               
have  committed lower  level violent  crimes such  as assault  or                                                               
crimes determined  by the Court  to be worthy of  monitoring. The                                                               
program, which is undergoing  an approximate two-month evaluation                                                               
period, is  utilizing several types  of technologies.  The system                                                               
is functioning properly  in regards to monitoring  such things as                                                               
offender's locations  and "the ability to  monitor breath samples                                                               
remotely". The program would be  modified to address higher level                                                               
offenders after this initial period.                                                                                            
Senator Dyson  understood therefore that the  Kenai pilot program                                                               
did  not  currently  include gang  related  offenders.  He  asked                                                               
whether  the  higher  level  offenses  being  referred  to  would                                                               
include violent crimes with victims living in the area.                                                                         
Chief  Copp understood  that  the program  would  be expanded  to                                                               
include  individuals who  had committed  violent  sex crimes  and                                                               
violent  assaults. A  list of  qualifiers has  been developed  by                                                               
adult-probationary officers and the Court.                                                                                      
Chief Copp informed that Kenai, at  the moment, did not have many                                                               
gang  related offenders  in its  prisons.  Kenai law  enforcement                                                               
officials  have  worked  diligently  with  the  Anchorage  Police                                                               
Department to deter gang activity from spreading to the area.                                                                   
Chief Copp reported that Kenai has  taken "a very active role" in                                                               
implementing  this pilot  program.  In addition  to  the goal  of                                                               
having its  own program in  place, the  hope is that  this effort                                                               
would  support  the effort  to  implement  a similar  program  in                                                               
Senator Dyson  asked whether the  probationers would pay  for the                                                               
program in Kenai.                                                                                                               
Chief Copp  was unsure  of the manner  in which  probationers and                                                               
parolees would support the program.                                                                                             
9:34:58 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Thomas  asked  whether  the  Court  or  law  enforcement                                                               
agencies might be liable if,  due to equipment failure or another                                                               
reason, a person being monitored committed a serious crime.                                                                     
Chief Copp  expressed that "government entities  will always have                                                               
liability"  since the  nature of  their  task is  to provide  for                                                               
public safety. The  technology has worked well in  other parts of                                                               
the  country and  should work  in Alaska.  He did  not anticipate                                                               
liability increasing beyond current experience.                                                                                 
9:36:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CAPTAIN GARDNER COBB, Anchorage  Police Department, testified via                                                               
teleconference from  an offnet location  in support of  the bill.                                                               
He suggested  that the  narrow scope of  this bill  would present                                                               
the opportunity  to determine whether  the program would  work in                                                               
Alaska. If successful, the program could be expanded.                                                                           
Captain Cobb supported  the Active Monitoring method  as it would                                                               
allow law enforcement officers to  catch a parolee or probationer                                                               
in  the act  of violating.  There is  also value  in changing  an                                                               
individual's behavior  and keeping them from  re-associating with                                                               
a gang.                                                                                                                         
Captain Cobb attested to the  gang problem in Anchorage. There is                                                               
no  "inexpensive  solution  to  mitigating  the  violence  here".                                                               
Because  he is  the coordinator  of the  gang response  effort in                                                               
Anchorage, he is  aware of national efforts in  this regard. "The                                                               
way to get  the violence under control to begin  with is that you                                                               
identify the gang  leaders, the hard core members,  the ones that                                                               
are committing  most of the  violence, and  you put them  in jail                                                               
for a long long time."                                                                                                          
Captain  Cobb  also  announced  that  in  order  to  counter  the                                                               
"conveyor belt" that is producing  "these hardened thuds that are                                                               
committing the violent crimes", investments  must be made to help                                                               
families at risk.                                                                                                               
9:38:35 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dyson   concluded  that  the  likely   outcome  of  this                                                               
monitoring effort  would be to  revoke probations rather  than to                                                               
protecting public safety.                                                                                                       
Captain  Cobb shared  that the  experience in  Anchorage is  that                                                               
people  out  of jail  on  bail  or  on probation  are  committing                                                               
violent  crimes.  This  program  "would help  mitigate  that"  by                                                               
keeping those  individuals separate  from people and  areas which                                                               
influence that activity.                                                                                                        
Senator   Dyson  understood   therefore   that  law   enforcement                                                               
officials  would be  able "to  intercede" were  a perpetrator  to                                                               
approach a victim.                                                                                                              
Captain Cobb  clarified that the Department  of Corrections would                                                               
conduct  the  monitoring activities.  APD  would  respond if  the                                                               
Department of Corrections required assistance.                                                                                  
9:40:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CAROL  COMEAU,  Superintendent,  Anchorage  School  District  and                                                               
Member,  Anchorage  Violent  Crimes  Task  Force,  testified  via                                                               
teleconference  from  an  offnet   location  in  support  of  the                                                               
legislation. It  would be both  an intervention and  a preventive                                                               
measure to  having gang activities  on high school  grounds. Many                                                               
gang  "wannabes"  are  in  schools. This  bill  would  assist  in                                                               
deterring  people who  are out  of  high school  from getting  on                                                               
school grounds.                                                                                                                 
Ms.  Comeau  advised  that many  school  students  are  currently                                                               
wearing ankle monitoring bracelets for  a variety of reasons. The                                                               
School  District  has  an   excellent  relationship  with  police                                                               
officers who work in the  schools and probation officers. Passage                                                               
of  this legislation  would provide  an  additional tool  through                                                               
which to deter gang related activities.                                                                                         
9:42:08 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Elton asked  whether the  Judiciary Committee  action of                                                               
including "parole" in  the bill would require a  title change. He                                                               
also asked whether that inclusion would affect the fiscal note.                                                                 
9:42:29 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Wielechowski clarified that  the subsection pertaining to                                                               
parolees  was added  by the  Senate Judiciary  Committee, at  the                                                               
request of  the Department  of Law.  The expense  associated with                                                               
that should  be included in the  fiscal note as it  was developed                                                               
after  that  action occurred.  The  bill  title might  require  a                                                               
change to reflect the addition of the parole subsection.                                                                        
9:43:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Griffin stated that the  Department would continue to support                                                               
an indeterminate fiscal note. The  cost would be dependent on the                                                               
number  of people  being  monitored and  the  type of  monitoring                                                               
9:43:38 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hoffman observed  that  the fiscal  note denoted  there                                                               
being 96 offenders on probation  with 36 of those under intensive                                                               
supervision. There were 50 juvenile  probationers with another 23                                                               
pending. He  asked whether the  monitoring system would  focus on                                                               
juveniles or adult probationer/parolees.                                                                                        
Senator  Wielechowski  communicated that  the  goal  would be  to                                                               
monitor  anyone  meeting  the definition.  While  this  could  be                                                               
further addressed by  the Department of Law or  the Department of                                                               
Corrections,  he thought  that the  program would  apply more  to                                                               
adults and juveniles tried and convicted as adults under law.                                                                   
Co-Chair Hoffman asked which of  the three monitoring methods was                                                               
preferred by the Department of Corrections.                                                                                     
9:45:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Griffin  stated that the  Department's position  would depend                                                               
on the version  of the bill adopted. The  Department would likely                                                               
support the  "passive GPS with intensive  supervision" monitoring                                                               
system  were the  word  "continuous" not  included  in the  final                                                               
version of the bill. The  "active GPS with intensive supervision"                                                               
monitoring system would be supported otherwise.                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stedman ordered  the bill HELD in  Committee for further                                                               
9:46:07 AM                                                                                                                    

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