Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/08/1995 01:59 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 SJUD - 3/8/95                                                                 
        SB  67 UNLAWFUL EVASIONS CLASS A MISDEMEANOR                        
 SENATOR ELLIS, sponsor of SB 67, explained the bill is companion              
 legislation to a bill introduced by Representative Brown in                   
 response to concerns of people running half-way houses and people             
 living in the vicinity of half-way houses.  Currently there is a              
 two-tiered penalty approach to people who are guilty of unlawful              
 evasion, or walking away from a half-way house facility.  Felons              
 who walk away are charged with a class A misdemeanor, and                     
 misdemeanor offenders in half-way houses are charged with a class             
 B misdemeanor for the same offense.  SB 67 changes the offense to             
 a class A misdemeanor for all offenders and carries a maximum one             
 year prison sentence, and a maximum $5,000 fine.   The class B                
 misdemeanor conviction is not providing enough incentive to prevent           
 people from walking away from half-way houses, and is not a                   
 priority among prosecutors.  The misdemeanor offenders are drunk              
 drivers or drug abusers, and documented cases show these people               
 have committed serious offenses after unlawful evasion.                       
 SENATOR TAYLOR announced Ruth Moulton, who was planning to testify            
 via teleconference from Fairbanks, supports SB 67.                            
 TAPE 95-11, SIDE B                                                            
 CATHERINE PETKOFF, representing AllVest Incorporated (ABI), a                 
 residential center with over 400 residents, testified in support of           
 SB 67.  She stated AVI houses both felons and misdemeanants, and              
 after housing thousands of offenders since 1985, AVI strongly                 
 believes appropriate sanctions are necessary to prevent residents             
 from walking away from the resident program.  She explained the               
 conditions classifying a "walk-away"  and provided statistics on              
 the number of walkaways in the last four years.  She stated                   
 misdemeanant offenders are more likely to violate program rules as            
 they consider the minimum sanctions as an acceptable consequence.             
 She added 26 offenders have walked away from residential facilities           
 between October 1, 1994 to February 28, 1995; 11 were                         
 misdemeanants.  She noted these programs are not only cost                    
 effective for incarcerating offenders, but also offer the                     
 opportunity for successful transition from institutional living by            
 allowing residents to gain employment, develop community support              
 services, and return something to the community through the                   
 participation in work service prior to their release.  In these               
 programs, residents only gain privileges after they have                      
 demonstrated responsible behavior and accept responsibility for               
 their actions.                                                                
 PETE ROBERTS testified via teleconference in support of SB 67.  He            
 asked whether offenders would no longer be required to honor the              
 provisions of parole, for example restitution, after they recommit.           
 He asked if the offender may be trading the consequences of walking           
 away for the consequences of a previous crime.  SENATOR TAYLOR did            
 not believe so, and commented the second offense would most likely            
 draw attention to the fact that the conditions of the first offense           
 had not been met.  MR. ROBERTS recounted a situation in which arson           
 was committed on his vehicle, as well as others. The offender is              
 required to pay restitution.  The prison official handling the case           
 stated that if the offender committed a new crime upon release, the           
 new sentence would overrule the conditions of parole.  SENATOR                
 TAYLOR doubted that would be the case.                                        
 ALAN TESCE testified in support of SB 67.  He explained he lives              
 three-quarters of a mile of 98 percent of all of the half-way                 
 houses in Anchorage.  He noted with the increased concentration of            
 half-way house beds in the downtown area, he expects the number of            
 walk-aways to rise.  He felt passage of SB 67 would act as a                  
 deterrent.  He discussed testimony before a South [indisc.]                   
 Community Council.  The providers of half-way houses do not have              
 any responsibility to the state or neighborhoods for criminal                 
 actions or any other actions committed by walk-aways once the                 
 operator of the half-way house has notified the police.                       
 SENATOR TAYLOR responded the restriction on the ability to file a             
 civil suit against a half-way house for negligence is known as tort           
 Number 493                                                                    
 GERALD BAILEY, Program Director of Gastineau Human Services (GHS),            
 testified in support of SB 67.  He pointed out that GHS has been              
 holding misdemeanants at their facilities since 1991.                         
 Misdemeanants are more likely to walk away than felons; one reason            
 being that the sanctions are not as restrictive for misdemeanants.            
 The City and Borough of Juneau changed a city ordinance at GHS's              
 request to strengthen the charges; this has had a significant                 
 impact in decreasing the number of walk-aways.                                
 SENATOR ADAMS moved SB 67 out of committee with individual                    
 recommendations.  SENATOR TAYLOR objected to make the following               
 comment, "In my previous experience and life as a judge, when you             
 sentenced somebody to a halfway house, you were kind of giving them           
 a break and hoping they would learn something from it.  To have               
 people walk away, and there to be no teeth, and there to be a                 
 system that was so hidebound with paperwork that you could never              
 get an officer to go and start looking for them to bring them back            
 was always very frustrating, so I really applaud the sponsor for              
 bringing this forward.  I remove any objection I have, and wish the           
 bill well, and it moves from committee."  SB 67 was moved out of              
 committee with individual recommendations.                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects