Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
01/19/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
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SB 218-CRIMINAL SENTENCING AND POLYGRAPHS 9:35:12 AM VICE-CHAIR CHARLIE HUGGINS announced SB 218 to be up for consideration. 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 down. 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 themselves. 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 system. 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 prison. 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 states. 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 state. 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 work. 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.