Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

01/19/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
           SB 218-CRIMINAL SENTENCING AND POLYGRAPHS                                                                        
9:35:12 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR  CHARLIE  HUGGINS  announced  SB  218  to  be  up  for                                                               
SENATOR CON BUNDE,  bill sponsor, introduced SB 218  with a short                                                               
summary of the  bill. SB 218 would increase  the minimum sentence                                                               
for the most  egregious unclassified and Class  A sexual felonies                                                               
to  a  minimum  of  25  years. It  proposes  to  restructure  and                                                               
increase sentencing  in Class C  and Class B sexual  offenses. It                                                               
would  require  periodic  polygraph  testing  for  repeat  sexual                                                               
offenders who are  on probation or parole and  it would implement                                                               
changes in the sex offender registry.                                                                                           
Alaska  has  the reputation  of  having  the highest  per  capita                                                               
sexual abuse  rate in the nation.  Reported cases are the  tip of                                                               
the iceberg since  many offenses go unreported.  Current laws are                                                               
not working and serious changes must be made.                                                                                   
9:39:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE  advised the  committee  that  the bill  would  be                                                               
expensive for  the state but  a necessary cost. The  polygraph is                                                               
not admissible  in court but other  states have found it  to work                                                               
well at reducing  recidivism rates. He indicated a  report in the                                                               
bill packet  that shows  treatment does  not achieve  the desired                                                               
results and does  very little to reduce  re-offending. He thanked                                                               
Senator Guess for her work on the bill.                                                                                         
9:42:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS moved  to adopt a committee substitute  (CS) for SB                                                               
218, version I. Hearing no objection, the motion carried.                                                                       
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  for an  explanation  of the  amendment                                                               
that accompanied the CS.                                                                                                        
VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS ordered  committee members to hold  off on the                                                               
amendment  process  but  asked   Senator  Guess  to  explain  the                                                               
proposed amendment.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  GUESS explained  the amendment  in the  packet would  be                                                               
Amendment 1 at  some point. It moves sexual assault  of a minor 3                                                               
(SAM3) that  has to do with  sexual penetration to SAM2.  It says                                                               
that in  Alaska sexual assault  of a minor with  penetration will                                                               
be either  a SAM1  or SAM2  offense. Also,  an attempt  at sexual                                                               
penetration of  a minor  would result in  a SAM3  charge. Current                                                               
law says that an attempt would  be a misdemeanor so the amendment                                                               
would deem anything  that has to do with sexual  penetration of a                                                               
minor to be an automatic felony.                                                                                                
9:44:34 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  the outcome  of a  case that  was pled                                                               
SENATOR GUESS  deferred to  Ms. Parkes except  to say  there were                                                               
two areas:  sexual penetration and sexual  contact. The amendment                                                               
deals specifically  with penetration,  which has a  definition in                                                               
statute. Sexual contact can be pled down to a misdemeanor.                                                                      
9:45:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE  added  the  impact  on  the  minor  mentally  and                                                               
physically is  far more egregious  than the punishment  doled out                                                               
to the offender. SB 218 would  prove that the state shows serious                                                               
concern for the victims.                                                                                                        
VICE-CHAIR HUGGINS called Anna Fairclough to testify.                                                                           
9:47:52 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ANNA  FAIRCLOUGH,   Executive  Director,  Standing  Together                                                               
Against  Rape (STAR),  testified their  organization supports  SB                                                               
218.  Alaskans need  to institute  harsher and  longer sentencing                                                               
for better  protection of its  citizens. She claimed that  as men                                                               
age they  become less  likely to  perpetrate so  longer sentences                                                               
would serve to help eliminate re-offenses.                                                                                      
9:53:53 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH commented the use  of a polygraph exposes far more                                                               
victims  than people  are aware  of. An  Alaska Judicial  Counsel                                                               
report of  2004 said 91  percent of  sexual assault in  the first                                                               
degree charges  resulted in reduced  charges. 79 percent  of SAM1                                                               
and 83 percent  of SAM2 cases ended up with  reduced or dismissed                                                               
charges. He  expressed concern regarding the  pressure within the                                                               
system to reduce charges for expediency purposes.                                                                               
9:57:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE  said  that  since  all  the  sentences  would  be                                                               
ratcheted  up,  there  would still  be  substantially  more  time                                                               
served even if  the person were to plead down.  However, he would                                                               
rather the perpetrator be prosecuted to the fullest extent.                                                                     
SENATOR GUESS  referred to page  5 section 6 and  highlighted the                                                               
importance  of  the  polygraph  section   as  being  a  tool  for                                                               
protecting the public.                                                                                                          
SENATOR THERRIAULT agreed with the  polygraph section of the bill                                                               
but expressed concern over the accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                       
10:01:45 AM                                                                                                                   
VICE-CHAIR  HUGGINS asked  Senator  Bunde  whether the  polygraph                                                               
responsibility would lie with the Department of Corrections.                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE said  yes but that the offender would  have to bear                                                               
some of the  cost. He added that perpetrators are  generally in a                                                               
state of denial and the polygraph would help stem the deceit.                                                                   
VICE-CHAIR   HUGGINS   called   for  representatives   from   the                                                               
Department of Law  (DOL) and the Department  of Corrections (DOC)                                                               
to testify.                                                                                                                     
10:04:47 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  SUSAN PARKES,  Deputy Attorney  General, Criminal  Division,                                                               
Department   of  Law   (DOL)  and   MS.  PORTIA   PARKER,  Deputy                                                               
Commissioner,   Department   of  Corrections   (DOC)   introduced                                                               
MS.  PARKES  advised  the committee  that  the  department  fully                                                               
support the  bill. It targets  sex offenders and sends  a message                                                               
throughout  the state  that this  type  of behavior  will not  be                                                               
tolerated.  The  DOL normally  operates  in  a reactive  mode  in                                                               
response to re-offenders but the  polygraph section would work as                                                               
an   active,   important,   pro-active   tool.   The   department                                                               
anticipates that  there would  be additional  costs to  the court                                                               
Plea-bargaining would continue to  occur simply because sex abuse                                                               
cases are  difficult to  prosecute. Often  victims are  found not                                                               
competent to testify, and sometimes  parents plead not to put the                                                               
child on the  stand. The system cannot allow every  case to go to                                                               
trial. She said four percent of  all felony cases go to trial yet                                                               
despite that, there is a backlog  in the system. There has been a                                                               
bill  introduced  by  the  Governor to  increase  the  number  of                                                               
superior court judges around the  state to deal specifically with                                                               
the criminal backlog.                                                                                                           
10:09:42 AM                                                                                                                   
On the average there are  approximately 300 felony trials waiting                                                               
for  trial, and  that includes  homicide. Overall,  despite plea-                                                               
bargaining, SB 218 would still  put sex offenders behind bars and                                                               
once  they  are  out  they  will  be  polygraphed.  SB  218  also                                                               
recognizes  that there  are people  who should  never get  out of                                                               
10:11:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   asked  Ms.  Parkes  whether   the  DOL  has                                                               
considered just  using the polygraph system  to keep perpetrators                                                               
from re-offending rather than also  upping sentencing, which adds                                                               
great costs to the state.                                                                                                       
MS. PARKES said  extending the sentences for  repeat offenders is                                                               
appropriate.  In terms  of the  new ranges,  they are  higher for                                                               
victims  under  13 years  of  age,  so  that  is a  target  area.                                                               
Testimony shows  there would be  more victims were  the sentences                                                               
to remain lighter.                                                                                                              
10:13:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  PARKER  elaborated the  US  Department  of Justice  training                                                               
shows using  the polygraph is  best practices, yet even  with the                                                               
best  possible supervision,  there  are  still re-offenders.  The                                                               
polygraph  provides  more  information   and  results  in  better                                                               
offender management and so it  does allow for better supervision.                                                               
When the  full model  is implemented, offenders  tend to  be more                                                               
successful. Longer sentences should  be dealt to repeat offenders                                                               
and/or psychopaths for the safety of the public.                                                                                
10:17:17 AM                                                                                                                   
Relapse  is always  a risk  with  sex offenders.  The best  thing                                                               
about the polygraph is it gives  a lot of information that can be                                                               
shared  with  the treatment  provider  and  with the  supervising                                                               
officer.  It  results  in  preventing  crimes  and  provides  for                                                               
quicker intervention.                                                                                                           
10:19:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT wondered whether it  made more sense to impose                                                               
longer probation instead  of longer sentences. He  said since the                                                               
polygraph has  been proven  to work in  keeping sex  offenders on                                                               
the right  path, would it  be more  cost effective to  try longer                                                               
probation with polygraph.  He also asked the  experience of other                                                               
states that have used polygraph extensively.                                                                                    
MS. PARKER stated there was  success when used with treatment and                                                               
supervision with the polygraph. What  offenders say is it is like                                                               
having  a constant  leash. The  polygraph test  is usually  given                                                               
quarterly.  Other  states  have lifetime  probation  for  certain                                                               
level sex offenders depending on  risk. Incarceration is the only                                                               
way to make sure the offenders are not out causing more victims.                                                                
10:22:55 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked whether Alaska was  obligated under the                                                               
Interstate  Compact  Act  to  accept  sex  offenders  from  other                                                               
MS.  PARKER  said  due  to   the  Interstate  Compact  Guidelines                                                               
interstate  travel is  easier for  sex offenders.  However, under                                                               
certain  conditions  Alaska  has  the  ability  to  disallow  sex                                                               
offenders from entering the state.                                                                                              
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked  whether Alaska would be  able to impose                                                               
a polygraph on  someone who was convicted on a  sex offense under                                                               
a jurisdiction that did not have the polygraph testing.                                                                         
MS. PARKER said absolutely.                                                                                                     
10:24:08 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH  asked Ms. Parker whether  polygraph testing could                                                               
be instituted for  the people who were already  in prison serving                                                               
their sentences for a sex abuse crime.                                                                                          
MS. PARKER  informed members there  is a current project  for sex                                                               
offenders on parole to get  a special condition added that allows                                                               
for the  polygraph but they  currently are limited to  the number                                                               
of offenders they  can polygraph due to a  shortage of examiners.                                                               
The DOC  is specifically  asking to add  the polygraph  for high-                                                               
risk offenders as a condition of their parole.                                                                                  
10:26:29 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH asked whether probation  officers would be trained                                                               
to administer  polygraphs and how  the examiners would  cover the                                                               
MS.  PARKER  advised  that  the   DOC  does  not  currently  have                                                               
corrections  officers run  polygraphs.  They use  a sex  offender                                                               
specific provider.  Colorado first  started in 1989  by requiring                                                               
that  all sex  offenders be  subject  to polygraph  testing as  a                                                               
condition to  parole and  they went  from using  two to  using 33                                                               
polygraph examiners.  She recommended that Alaska  have more than                                                               
one  provider  in the  case  of  disputes. The  contractor  would                                                               
travel to  remote locations.  There are  providers who  desire to                                                               
come to Alaska but have not  yet as there currently is not enough                                                               
10:29:54 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH  asked whether the  DOL expects a  court challenge                                                               
to  the law  regarding extended  sentences. He  expressed concern                                                               
that the proposed sentence ranges  are stiffer than murder in the                                                               
second degree.                                                                                                                  
MS. PARKES admitted that is  a concern, which has been discussed.                                                               
The  bill proposes  a dramatic  jump on  the sentence  range. She                                                               
encouraged  the Legislature  to put  on the  record the  findings                                                               
behind why  the changes  are being  made. A  letter of  intent or                                                               
appropriate  justification  would  be in  order  to  pro-actively                                                               
address any such challenges.                                                                                                    
10:32:02 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS mentioned  she and Senator Bunde were  aware of the                                                               
findings requested by the DOL.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  whether a  letter of  intent would  be                                                               
enough or whether findings were necessary.                                                                                      
MS. PARKES  stated actual findings  would give the basis  and the                                                               
facts the Legislature relied to reach their conclusion.                                                                         
SENATOR  GUESS  asked  whether  a polygraph  could  be  added  to                                                               
probation conditions for people who were currently in prison.                                                                   
10:34:45 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. PARKES responded people who  have already been sentenced with                                                               
conditions  already  set  by  a judge  probably  could  not  have                                                               
additional conditions added.                                                                                                    
MS. PARKER added  with parole there is no  supervision unless the                                                               
person already has probation.                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT mentioned  one of the fiscal  notes was signed                                                               
by  the director  of  the  Office of  Public  Advocacy and  asked                                                               
whether that was a technical issue.                                                                                             
Vice-Chair Huggins held SB 218 in committee.                                                                                    

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