Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/17/2012 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Moved SJR 13 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
        SB 195-PROBATION AND PAROLE OFFICERS' CASELOADS                                                                     
1:32:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 195.                                                                             
1:32:22 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MCGUIRE, sponsor  of SB  195, said  the impetus  for the                                                               
bill  was concern  about burgeoning  caseloads for  probation and                                                               
parole officers, and the possibility  of establishing ratios. The                                                               
bill is intended to start a  dialog with the Department of Public                                                               
Safety (DPS) and the Department of Corrections (DOC).                                                                           
SB  195 would  establish in  statute a  maximum of  60 cases  for                                                               
probation and parole officers at  any given time. Parole officers                                                               
in the  Anchorage area  are often responsible  for more  than 100                                                               
cases in prisons, jails, and  community resident centers, leaving                                                               
little  time to  improve the  quality of  the individual  that is                                                               
returned to  civilian life. This  legislation alone  won't reduce                                                               
recidivism, but it  can be part of the solution  along with other                                                               
resources  that provide  evidence-based programing  for offenders                                                               
and training for officers.                                                                                                      
The  PEW  Center  Public Safety  Performance  Project  on  States                                                               
reported that  in FY08 about nine  of every ten dollars  spent on                                                               
corrections  is  devoted to  state  prisons,  although nearly  70                                                               
percent of offenders are supervised  in the community. The issues                                                               
associated  with  large caseloads  include:  an  inability to  do                                                               
field observations or  home visits; an inability  to attend court                                                               
hearings; and high officer turnover rates due to burnout.                                                                       
SENATOR MCGUIRE reported that in  the last five years, four other                                                               
states limited  caseloads by  statute and  three of  those states                                                               
set the limit  of 60 parolees per officer. She  concluded that SB
195  will  start  a  conversation  about  the  effectiveness  and                                                               
systemic costs of the corrections system in this state.                                                                         
1:39:45 PM                                                                                                                    
RONALD  TAYLOR,  Director,  Division  of  Probation  and  Parole,                                                               
Department  of Corrections  (DOC), stated  that working  with the                                                               
sponsor and the committee will be a proactive opportunity.                                                                      
CHAIR FRENCH asked how he came to be in his current position.                                                                   
MR. TAYLOR related  that he supervised the  Alaska Alcohol Safety                                                               
Action Program (ASAP) for 18  years, and in September transferred                                                               
to DOC  as division  director. He  noted that  he also  served as                                                               
executive director of the Board of Parole for three years.                                                                      
CHAIR FRENCH  asked if  he would  be in charge  of more  than the                                                               
probation and parole officers covered under the bill.                                                                           
MR. TAYLOR replied  he was in charge of the  field and electronic                                                               
monitoring  officers covered  under the  bill, and  the community                                                               
residential centers throughout the state.                                                                                       
CHAIR   FRENCH   asked   about  the   different   categories   of                                                               
MR.  TAYLOR   explained  that  there  are   three  categories  of                                                               
specialized  field  probation  officer caseloads:  sex  offender,                                                               
enhanced   supervision,   and   mental   health.   The   enhanced                                                               
supervision caseloads include high-risk offenders.                                                                              
1:42:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN joined the committee.                                                                                           
CHAIR   FRENCH  asked   him  to   describe  the   duties  of   an                                                               
institutional probation officer.                                                                                                
MR. TAYLOR explained that  they develop institutional programing,                                                               
classify offenders  and ensure that the  offender management plan                                                               
will help a person be successful  when he or she is released from                                                               
the  institution   into  the  field.  Responding   to  a  further                                                               
question,  he  said  that  field  officers  definitely  outnumber                                                               
institutional officers, but  he didn't know the ratio.  He was in                                                               
charge of field POs and  the institution directors were in charge                                                               
of institutional POs.                                                                                                           
CHAIR FRENCH asked where presentence report writers fit in.                                                                     
MR.   TAYLOR  explained   that  each   probation  office   has  a                                                               
presentence writer.                                                                                                             
CHAIR FRENCH  asked if  those positions would  be covered  by the                                                               
MR. TAYLOR replied that was part of the dialog.                                                                                 
CHAIR FRENCH asked  Mr. Taylor to discuss what  resources go into                                                               
writing a presentence report, and how it follows an offender.                                                                   
MR. TAYLOR explained that the  presentence report impacts how the                                                               
offender will  be sentenced by  the court  and governs how  he or                                                               
she will be supervised when released into the community.                                                                        
CHAIR  FRENCH  related  that Texas  Representative  Jerry  Madden                                                               
opined that the  vast majority of prisoners fall into  one of two                                                               
categories: "people we're mad at  and people we're afraid of." He                                                               
asked if  the presentence report  writer tries to sort  these two                                                               
categories out.                                                                                                                 
MR.  TAYLOR  answered yes;  the  information  in the  presentence                                                               
report is used to develop a  realistic case plan for a person who                                                               
is  under  institutional  supervision  and  when  he  or  she  is                                                               
1:47:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN asked  how many more probation  officers would be                                                               
needed to accomplish the 60 caseload goal                                                                                       
MR. TAYLOR replied the division was working on an estimate.                                                                     
SENATOR PASKVAN asked  how many POs there were  statewide, and if                                                               
most had caseloads of about 100.                                                                                                
MR.  TAYLOR  offered  to  follow up  with  specific  numbers  for                                                               
institutional POs, electronic monitoring  POs, and field POs. The                                                               
division had  142 individuals assigned  to it, but  that included                                                               
POs, criminal justice technicians and office support staff.                                                                     
1:48:52 PM                                                                                                                    
LINDA GERBER,  Probation Officer  II, Department  of Corrections,                                                               
said she had  worked for DOC for  more than 20 years  in both the                                                               
institution and  field, and had  worked specialized  caseloads in                                                               
mental  health,  sex  offender,  and  substance  abuse.  She  was                                                               
currently  one  of  four  POs  who  work  the  out-of-state  unit                                                               
covering more than  1,050 prisoners. She described  POs as ground                                                               
zero for implementing the plans  for offenders, and observed that                                                               
quality time and sometimes training were in short supply.                                                                       
CHAIR FRENCH  asked what other  tasks she  would focus on  if she                                                               
had fewer probationers to supervise.                                                                                            
MR. GERBER  replied she would  have more  time to work  with each                                                               
prisoner to  ensure successful reintegration. This  would include                                                               
discussions  with   the  local  field  officer   about  available                                                               
resources for housing, jobs, and treatment.                                                                                     
1:53:13 PM                                                                                                                    
WARREN WATERS,  Probation Officer  II, Department  of Corrections                                                               
(DOC), said  he was an  institutional PO,  and had worked  at the                                                               
Anchorage Jail  for the past  six years. His duties  included the                                                               
supervision of  about half  of the 400  offenders that  reside at                                                               
the  community  residential  centers  or  halfway  houses.  These                                                               
offenders  are   a  mixed  bag  of   sentenced  and  un-sentenced                                                               
misdemeanants  and   felons.  They  all  require   some  form  of                                                               
supervision and work,  but the heavy caseloads do  not leave much                                                               
time  per offender.  A caseload  of  100 calculates  to just  4.5                                                               
minutes  per day  for  each offender,  and  that doesn't  include                                                               
administrative time.  That isn't much  time to make  a difference                                                               
when the goal  is to help offenders  successfully reintegrate and                                                               
not recidivate.                                                                                                                 
1:56:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN asked  if other  probation officers  had similar                                                               
MR. WATERS said yes; the ten  POs at the Anchorage jail supervise                                                               
roughly  900   offenders  at  any   given  time,  and   are  also                                                               
responsible for the offenders at the halfway houses.                                                                            
1:56:55 PM                                                                                                                    
TRAVIS MORRIS,  Probation Officer  II, Department  of Corrections                                                               
(DOC), said he  had been a PO about four  years and was currently                                                               
assigned  to the  Anchorage field  services office.  His caseload                                                               
was  over 100.  He  offered his  belief  that reducing  caseloads                                                               
would  give   POs  the  ability   to  help  an   offender  obtain                                                               
employment,  interact   with  a   counselor  who   was  providing                                                               
treatment, and attend court hearings.  Oftentimes the offender is                                                               
left  to fend  for him  or herself  and that  typically leads  to                                                               
recidivism.  This affects  POs and  translates  to high  turnover                                                               
rates. Burnout is common.                                                                                                       
Although field  work is an  integral part of field  probation, it                                                               
is typically  done in a  reactive state. Reducing caseloads  to a                                                               
manageable    level   will    enhance   community    safety   and                                                               
rehabilitation  of  the  offender.  Long-term  benefits  will  be                                                               
reduced government  spending, higher quality  of life for  the PO                                                               
and  offender, and  a successful,  proactive offender  monitoring                                                               
2:02:45 PM                                                                                                                    
LEILA SHEFFIELD, Probation Officer  II, Department of Corrections                                                               
(DOC), said  she was  a field probation  officer assigned  to the                                                               
adult probation  field office  in Bethel.  Her caseload  was 109,                                                               
two-thirds  of  which  lived  in  the  surrounding  villages  and                                                               
reported by phone  and mailed a report each  month. She explained                                                               
that  DOC relies  on Village  Public Safety  Officers (VPSOs)  to                                                               
help  monitor  offenders  residing   in  villages,  but  not  all                                                               
villages are staffed with one.                                                                                                  
She said  her workday is  typically spent on the  phone, although                                                               
offenders who live  in the Bethel area make  office visits. These                                                               
offenders  are  assessed  using  LSI-R  (Level  of  Service  Risk                                                               
Assessment)  tools,  and  this  takes about  1.5  hours.  If  her                                                               
caseload  were smaller,  she would  spend the  extra time  in the                                                               
villages  developing relationships  with treatment  providers and                                                               
the elders. She  described a recent case where  a probationer was                                                               
not successful to  illustrate the stress that POs  are under. She                                                               
described her  broad work  experience with DOC  over the  last 20                                                               
years and stated strong support for SB 195.                                                                                     
2:07:35 PM                                                                                                                    
DONNA WHITE,  representing herself,  Anchorage, AK, said  she was                                                               
the previous  director of  the Division  of Probation  and Parole                                                               
for DOC.  She thanked  the sponsor for  introducing the  bill and                                                               
opening  the  dialog, because  the  higher  the caseload  in  the                                                               
field, the  less proactive  a PO  can be  with the  offender. She                                                               
opined  that  this  was  the  place to  look  if  the  state  was                                                               
concerned  about  recidivism  and interested  in  working  toward                                                               
reentry.  When caseloads  are  over  90, the  PO  is reacting  to                                                               
violations  as opposed  to being  proactive and  identifying what                                                               
may  become a  violation. The  reaction  is typically  to file  a                                                               
violation report  and return the  person to jail, which  does not                                                               
help recidivism  rates. She concluded by  expressing appreciation                                                               
that the Senate was willing to open the discussion.                                                                             
SENATOR PASKVAN  asked what  the caseload trend  was the  last 10                                                               
years and if  it might give an  idea of where it would  be in 3-4                                                               
MS.  WHITE related  that in  the 80s  she worked  in Kodiak  as a                                                               
field PO and  had a caseload of about 60.  She speculated that it                                                               
may be between 75 and 90 today,  and without a cap it could reach                                                               
140. She  noted that specialized  caseloads were  already capped,                                                               
causing the non-specialized caseloads  to consistently go higher.                                                               
And the more specialized caseloads,  the fewer probation officers                                                               
to handle  the generic caseloads.  She also pointed out  that the                                                               
type of  offender had changed  significantly since the  80s. They                                                               
are more violent and have less respect for authority.                                                                           
SENATOR PASKVAN  commented that  it sounded  as though  the state                                                               
was  behind the  curve and  that the  trend would  get worse  for                                                               
probation officers.                                                                                                             
MS. WHITE agreed.                                                                                                               
2:13:06 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH closed  public testimony and remarked  that the cost                                                               
to put more  POs in the field  may be a topic  of conversation in                                                               
the budget subcommittee.                                                                                                        
CHAIR FRENCH held SB 195 in committee.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 195.PDF SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 195
SB 195-Sponsor statement.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 195
SB 195 backup NCSL.PDF SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 195
SB 195 backup -ADN articles.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 195
SB 195 letter of support.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 195
SJR 13 Ver.M.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJR 13
SJR13 Sponsor statement.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJR 13
SJR13 ADN Editorial.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJR 13
SJR13 Center for Responsive Politics article.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJR 13
SB110 Version M (1).pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 110
SB110.APOA Letter of Support.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 110
SB110.Support Ltr.Violent Crimes Compensation Board.pdf SJUD 2/17/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 110