Legislature(2017 - 2018)SENATE FINANCE 532

10/23/2017 03:00 PM JUDICIARY

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03:02:37 PM Start
03:03:43 PM Presentation: Crime and Justice Policy Review
04:20:01 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Joint with Senate Finance Committee TELECONFERENCED
Crime and Justice Policy Review
                 ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                       
                  FOURTH SPECIAL SESSION                                                                                        
                       JOINT MEETING                                                                                            
            SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                 
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                     October 23, 2017                                                                                           
                         3:02 p.m.                                                                                              
3:02:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Hoffman called the Senate Finance Committee                                                                            
meeting to order at 3:02 p.m.                                                                                                   
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                      
Senator Lyman Hoffman, Co-Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Anna MacKinnon, Co-Chair (via teleconference)                                                                           
Senator Click Bishop, Vice-Chair                                                                                                
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Senator Peter Micciche                                                                                                          
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Senator Natasha von Imhof                                                                                                       
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                       
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                    
Senator John Coghill, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
Senator Mike Dunleavy                                                                                                           
Senator Pete Kelly                                                                                                              
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                     
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Senator  Kevin Meyer;  Senator  Cathy  Giessel; Senator  Tom                                                                    
Begich;  Senator David  Wilson;  Senator  Dennis Egan;  Walt                                                                    
Monegan,  Commissioner, Department  of  Public Safety;  John                                                                    
Skidmore, Director, Criminal Division, Department of Law.                                                                       
^PRESENTATION: CRIME and JUSTICE POLICY REVIEW                                                                                
3:03:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hoffman reviewed  the  meeting  agenda. He  stated                                                                    
that  the joint  committee would  discuss SB  54, which  was                                                                    
comprised of  amendments to SB  91 [criminal  justice reform                                                                    
legislation passed  in 2016]. He thought  everyone was aware                                                                    
that the  Senate had acted by  passing SB 91, which  was now                                                                    
signed into law.  He continued that the  committee had acted                                                                    
on SB  54, which was  the Senate's  version of fixes  to the                                                                    
bill.  The bill  was currently  in the  other body  awaiting                                                                    
Co-Chair Hoffman  emphasized that  it was important  to stay                                                                    
focused  on fixing  the  problems  that were  in  SB 91.  He                                                                    
stated  that the  members of  the  Senate strongly  believed                                                                    
fixes needed to  happen to SB 91  in the form of  SB 54. The                                                                    
committee would hear from the Department of Law.                                                                                
3:06:20 PM                                                                                                                    
Chair  Coghill noted  that SB  91  had been  the product  of                                                                    
recommendations from the  Alaska Criminal Justice Commission                                                                    
(ACJC), which  had been formed  by SB 64 [passed  during the                                                                    
2013-14   legislative    session].   The    commission   had                                                                    
investigated the question of  Alaska's high rate recidivism,                                                                    
and  had  come  up  with 21  recommendations.  Most  of  the                                                                    
recommendations had  ended up in  SB 91, which was  meant to                                                                    
make the  best use  of funds. Additionally,  the legislation                                                                    
was intended  to strengthen  probation and  parole, reinvest                                                                    
where  possible,   and  incentivize  compliance   with  good                                                                    
behavior. The  legislation had increased  mandatory minimums                                                                    
which had not been congruent with public condemnation.                                                                          
Chair  Coghill continued  to discuss  SB 91,  detailing that                                                                    
there was required risk  assessments and post-jail planning.                                                                    
Defendants would  be released  on pre-trial  supervision for                                                                    
in a coordinated  way the first time. He  qualified that the                                                                    
pre-trial  supervision provision  had  not  totally come  to                                                                    
fruition.  The bill  had required  more severe  penalties on                                                                    
drug dealing and  drug trafficking; and had  changed some of                                                                    
the  lower-level  penalties.  He  went on  that  SB  91  had                                                                    
established  court  reminders   and  had  enhanced  victim's                                                                    
advocacy significantly.                                                                                                         
Chair Coghill continued to discuss  the history of SB 91. In                                                                    
the process of the  implementation, the sponsor had realized                                                                    
that  the probation  set  forward for  some  crimes was  not                                                                    
sufficient.  Additionally, property  theft was  on the  rise                                                                    
and law  enforcement lacked sufficient  tools. Additionally,                                                                    
there were  violations to conditions of  release. To respond                                                                    
to public  outcry, police input,  and the Department  of Law                                                                    
(LAW); solutions  came out in the  form of SB 54,  which the                                                                    
Senate had passed the previous year.                                                                                            
Chair  Coghill discussed  SB 54,  explaining  that the  bill                                                                    
recriminalized the  violations of  conditions of  release so                                                                    
there would be a penalty to  cause a change of action or put                                                                    
offenders in jail  if need be. He specified  that the first-                                                                    
time C  Felony was  debated at  length. At  a recommendation                                                                    
from LAW, in  SB 54 the sponsor expanded  the sentencing for                                                                    
a first-time C Felony to up to a year of jail time.                                                                             
3:10:11 PM                                                                                                                    
Chair  Coghill  explained  that SB  54  had  expanded  theft                                                                    
crimes  (felonies) and  escalated  B  felonies; wherein  the                                                                    
first  time   had  monetary   fine  potential   and  further                                                                    
violations  had  jail  time potential.  The  department  had                                                                    
shown  the sponsor  that the  provisions of  SB 91  were not                                                                    
sufficient   to   get    offenders   to   change   behavior.                                                                    
Additionally, SB 54  put an aggravator on  an A Misdemeanor,                                                                    
which  allowed  judges  more discretion.  The  four  changes                                                                    
delivered  tools to  the  police and  answered  some of  the                                                                    
challenges of  the courts.  When the  Senate had  passed the                                                                    
bill,  there  was  expectation   that  debate  would  follow                                                                    
concerning  C   Felonies.  He  discussed  debate   over  the                                                                    
proposed changes contained in SB 54.                                                                                            
Chair Coghill had  found that over the  previous months that                                                                    
LAW, the  courts, and the  police force had  recognized that                                                                    
the tools  would be sufficient  to implement  public safety.                                                                    
The  changes   were  not  implemented  yet.   He  wanted  to                                                                    
demonstrate  what  had  been done  to  answer  the  concerns                                                                    
created by SB  91. He added that SB 55  had been signed into                                                                    
law, and  was comprised  of technical issues.  He emphasized                                                                    
that the focus  of the presentation was  to demonstrate that                                                                    
SB  54  had addressed  some  of  the serious  public  safety                                                                    
3:12:39 PM                                                                                                                    
WALT  MONEGAN, COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT  OF PUBLIC  SAFETY,                                                                    
testified in support of SB 54.  He was delighted to speak on                                                                    
why he  considered SB  54 to be  necessary. He  relayed that                                                                    
the  department had  numerous meetings  in  which there  was                                                                    
public   testimony,  and   there  had   been  a   number  of                                                                    
individuals who  had expressed dismay  at the results  of SB
91. He thought  the public condemnation aspect of  SB 54 was                                                                    
sorely  needed. He  stated that  the  department had  worked                                                                    
with LAW and ACJC to put forth the provisions of SB 54.                                                                         
Senator Kelly asked if SB  54 met the commissioner's desires                                                                    
for a bill to correct provisions of SB 91.                                                                                      
Commissioner   Monegan  was   not  entirely   sure  of   any                                                                    
amendments proposed in the other body.                                                                                          
Senator Kelly stated there were no amendments yet.                                                                              
Commissioner  Monegan stated  that the  department supported                                                                    
everything  that  was in  SB  54;  including the  additional                                                                    
discretion to judges.                                                                                                           
3:15:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Stevens referred to objections  to SB 91 and thought                                                                    
many  had  considered that  the  entire  bill needed  to  be                                                                    
withdrawn or  repealed. He thought  every major  bill needed                                                                    
modifications as it  went through the process.  He asked the                                                                    
commissioner to comment on the  idea of complete replacement                                                                    
of SB 91.                                                                                                                       
Commissioner   Monegan   discussed   his  history   in   law                                                                    
enforcement. He  acknowledged that  it had been  critical to                                                                    
address the high rate of  recidivism prior to the passage of                                                                    
SB  91. He  referenced SB  64, which  he had  been asked  to                                                                    
review  while in  leadership at  the  Alaska Native  Justice                                                                    
Center. He  thought things  could be done  in a  more humane                                                                    
way. He  thought SB  91 created  the opportunity  to address                                                                    
each  individual that  was in  the criminal  justice system,                                                                    
and tried to get them to  change their ways rather than just                                                                    
incarcerate  them.  He  discussed the  negative  effects  of                                                                    
incarceration  without rehabilitation.  He had  supported SB
91 but acknowledged  that some tweaks needed to  be made. He                                                                    
was in support of SB 54 and SB 55.                                                                                              
Senator Olson referred  to criticism of SB  91, and wondered                                                                    
if the positive  effects of the legislation  had enough time                                                                    
to effect factors such as  recidivism, particularly in rural                                                                    
areas. He wondered if in addition  to the change in the law,                                                                    
there had been a change  in society from the opioid epidemic                                                                    
getting a  strong foothold. He  thought blame on  effects of                                                                    
SB 91 could have been misplaced.                                                                                                
Commissioner Monegan  thought that Senator Olson  had made a                                                                    
good point in reference to  blame. He acknowledged a rise in                                                                    
crime in concert with a  drug epidemic in the United States.                                                                    
There was an  uptick in all crime areas,  with the exception                                                                    
of arson and homicide.                                                                                                          
Senator  Olson asked  if Commissioner  Monegan stood  by his                                                                    
statement that SB 54 was absolutely necessary.                                                                                  
Commissioner Monegan answered in the affirmative.                                                                               
3:20:50 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Micciche  thought that  there did not  seem to  be a                                                                    
correlation  with  increased  Department  of  Public  Safety                                                                    
(DPS)  spending and  a decreased  crime rate.  He considered                                                                    
the  number  of  empty  positions   in  the  department  and                                                                    
recalled  funding  five  additional  trooper  positions  the                                                                    
previous year. He recalled a  requested a report from DPS as                                                                    
to  how the  vacancies would  be filled.  The report  was to                                                                    
also address the reason for  the vacancies and how to retain                                                                    
the  individuals. He  asked if  it was  true that  the crime                                                                    
rate began  increasing in 2011 and  began rapidly increasing                                                                    
in 2014.  He recalled  that SB  91 began  to take  effect in                                                                    
Commissioner Monegan  agreed that the crime  rate was indeed                                                                    
rising long before the passage  of SB 91, because of factors                                                                    
such as the opioid crisis,  reduction in state troopers, and                                                                    
reductions  in the  Anchorage Police  Department. He  stated                                                                    
that normally  when there was  a loss of troopers  or police                                                                    
officers,   existing   personnel   would  be   tasked   with                                                                    
responding  to  higher  priority crimes.  He  remarked  that                                                                    
"people crimes" would always trump  property crimes. He used                                                                    
the analogy of  a "perfect storm" to  describe the reduction                                                                    
in force and the drug-induced uptick in crime.                                                                                  
3:24:35 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Micciche  stated  that  the Senate  had  taken  the                                                                    
departments'  suggestions and  ACJC's suggestions  to heart,                                                                    
and had  passed both  SB 54  and SB 55.  He hoped  the other                                                                    
body agreed with the changes  contained in SB 54. He thought                                                                    
it was  important for people  to know that the  Senate would                                                                    
do what  it took to  help relieve  the increase in  crime in                                                                    
the state. He  did not think that  SB 91 and SB  55 were the                                                                    
final solution, and thought more  work needed to be done. He                                                                    
thought it was necessary to  understand how to interrupt the                                                                    
flow of  drugs, and  to understand what  some of  the socio-                                                                    
economic issues were  in the state. He  discussed the cycles                                                                    
of crime  in the state,  and thought they also  followed the                                                                    
economic downturn in the state.                                                                                                 
Commissioner  Monegan agreed  that  crime  was cyclical  and                                                                    
followed economic  changes. He  asserted that a  downturn in                                                                    
the economy pressured individuals  to commit crimes in order                                                                    
to  satisfy  drug  habits. He  reiterated  that  the  opioid                                                                    
crisis was a  national problem. He thought that  SB 54 could                                                                    
give some  of the tools  back to  enable the system  to hold                                                                    
individuals accountable.                                                                                                        
3:27:12 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Wielechowski relayed  that he had sat  on the Senate                                                                    
Judiciary Committee  during hearings  on SB 91.  He recalled                                                                    
that the attorney  general, the commissioner of  DPS and the                                                                    
commissioner of Department of Corrections  were asked if the                                                                    
passage of SB  91 would have a detrimental  impact on public                                                                    
safety. The  committee was told  definitively that  it would                                                                    
not. He wondered if the  testifiers had been wrong. He asked                                                                    
what sort  of decreases in  crime the state could  expect if                                                                    
SB 54 was passed.                                                                                                               
Commissioner  Monegan thought  that  no  one had  envisioned                                                                    
such   a   widespread   drug  epidemic.   He   thought   his                                                                    
predecessors had  been very confident  that SB 91  would not                                                                    
have a detrimental effect to  public safety but acknowledged                                                                    
that perhaps  not all mitigating factors  had been foreseen.                                                                    
He was not able to quantify  a future decrease in crime as a                                                                    
result of  SB 54. He thought  in addition to what  was being                                                                    
done in intervention and  education, the actual apprehension                                                                    
of C Felony offenders  combined with the optional sentencing                                                                    
up to  one year might  be more incentive for  individuals to                                                                    
seek  treatment. He  considered the  point  of SB  91 to  be                                                                    
treating individuals in a more correct and humane manner.                                                                       
3:30:02 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wielechowski   referenced  data   on  un-prosecuted                                                                    
crimes  due to  a lack  of  prosecutors. He  noted the  high                                                                    
incidence  of  violence  against  women  in  the  state.  He                                                                    
wondered  how  it was  possible  to  change the  culture  of                                                                    
violence in the state.                                                                                                          
Commissioner Monegan thought that  in order to effect change                                                                    
in  a culture,  there needed  to be  a collaborative  effort                                                                    
between education,  enforcement, and treatment. He  used the                                                                    
adage "it takes a village to  raise a child" to describe the                                                                    
importance of collective action  to aid in correct decisions                                                                    
for the state. He thought  that the answer should start with                                                                    
SB 54.                                                                                                                          
Senator Wielechowski asked if  Alaskans should consider that                                                                    
the  passage of  SB  54  would solve  the  crime problem  in                                                                    
Alaska, or  if there was more  work to be done.  He asked if                                                                    
the  commissioner   had  specific   policy  ideas   for  the                                                                    
legislature  to  consider  trying   and  address  the  crime                                                                    
Commissioner Monegan  thought that  SB 54  was a  good first                                                                    
step on what he considered  a journey. He emphasized that SB
91  would  require  a process,  like  all  criminal  justice                                                                    
efforts. He thought there were  always changing factors that                                                                    
affected the  process. He thought  it was helpful  that ACJC                                                                    
had  been extended.  He asserted  that  the council  members                                                                    
were subject matter experts from  across the state and could                                                                    
provide oversight as  more issues came to  light. He thought                                                                    
that SB 91 was not fully  built yet, and used the example of                                                                    
pre-trial staffing, which  was not yet in  place. He thought                                                                    
that given  time, there  would be a  clearer picture  of the                                                                    
effects of SB 91.                                                                                                               
3:34:24 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hoffman thought  that the  importance of  the ACJC                                                                    
and  its reports  could  not be  overstated.  He wanted  the                                                                    
people of the  state to understand that  the legislature was                                                                    
continuing to look  at what problems might  arise, which was                                                                    
why the extension of the commission was so important.                                                                           
Senator  von Imhof  asked if  the legalization  of marijuana                                                                    
had an effect  on any type of crime; or  if it increased the                                                                    
frequency of  accidents, which would  take time  from public                                                                    
safety officers.                                                                                                                
Commissioner  Monegan  thought it  was  still  too early  to                                                                    
pinpoint  any problems  that resulted  from legalization  of                                                                    
marijuana.  He thought  it was  easier to  identify problems                                                                    
with  alcohol.  Anecdotally  he had  gleaned  that  problems                                                                    
usually  occurred  when  there  was a  mix  of  alcohol  and                                                                    
marijuana. He  recalled arresting an individual  that was on                                                                    
3:37:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dunleavy  referred  to   increased  crime  and  the                                                                    
resultant  change in  activities of  residents (such  as the                                                                    
purchase of  guns and home  surveillance technology)  of the                                                                    
state who  were feeling  affected. He  thought Alaska  had a                                                                    
wide tolerance for behaviors, more  so than any other state.                                                                    
He  thought there  had been  a significant  view in  the way                                                                    
people viewed  their fellow Alaskans, and  in people's daily                                                                    
activities. He  thought people were  starting to feel  as if                                                                    
they were  under siege and had  to take matters in  to their                                                                    
own hands. He wondered what to tell the people of Alaska.                                                                       
Commissioner Monegan  thought that the issues  of being safe                                                                    
and  feeling safe  were different  issues.  He thought  many                                                                    
police  agencies strove  for the  feeling of  safety through                                                                    
presence,  outreach,   and  showing  crime   statistics.  He                                                                    
referred to publicity of increased  crime and suggested that                                                                    
it  helped to  disrupt the  feeling  of safety.  He did  not                                                                    
think  it was  bad to  be  cognizant of  one's own  personal                                                                    
property and how to stay safe.                                                                                                  
Commissioner  Monegan addressed  the  question of  increased                                                                    
home  protection measures.  He  believed individuals  should                                                                    
research  the legality  of the  matter. He  advised that  if                                                                    
someone  was   considering  using   deadly  force,   it  was                                                                    
important to be  consciously aware of when  it was justified                                                                    
and when it was not.                                                                                                            
3:40:26 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dunleavy  asked  if  the  current  crime  rate  was                                                                    
something  to  become accustomed  to,  or  rather was  it  a                                                                    
temporary condition that could be addressed.                                                                                    
Commissioner  Monegan referred  to  the  cyclical nature  of                                                                    
crime and  recalled that  the crime rate  in the  1980's had                                                                    
been higher than currently. He  did not recall as much crime                                                                    
in  the news  in  the 1980's  when he  was  a patrolman.  He                                                                    
thought crime  was cyclical  and that  the state  would come                                                                    
out of  it. He thought  that the state would  experience the                                                                    
current  crime rate  until the  perpetrators  of the  crimes                                                                    
were dealt with. He thought SB  54 would make it possible to                                                                    
hold people accountable in a way they currently were not.                                                                       
Senator  Kelly remarked  that the  state was  experiencing a                                                                    
nation-wide  trend.  He  referred  to  the  confirmation  of                                                                    
United  States Attorney  General  Jeff  Sessions, and  noted                                                                    
that  an amazing  amount of  time  was spent  on the  opioid                                                                    
problem and rise in crime.  He thought other states had seen                                                                    
huge increases  in crime that  had not been seen  in Alaska.                                                                    
He  stated that  crime  resided  in the  hearts  of men  and                                                                    
women,  and not  in  the  statute books.  He  did not  think                                                                    
legislation  would magically  get rid  of crime.  He thought                                                                    
the  answers  to the  problem  were  more complex  than  the                                                                    
passage of SB 54.                                                                                                               
3:43:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Bishop thought  that parts  of his  district had                                                                    
felt the effects of crime  issues sooner than individuals in                                                                    
a  bigger city.  He stated  that  the Senate  had taken  the                                                                    
matter to heart and worked on  the issue. He referred to the                                                                    
addition  of  troopers  in  DPS.  He  referred  to  personal                                                                    
experience being a  victim of crime and  having proximity to                                                                    
opioid abuse. He considered that  the legislature was taking                                                                    
a measured  approach to make  the changes correcting  SB 91.                                                                    
He  agreed with  the  assertion that  the legislation  would                                                                    
need time to work.                                                                                                              
Vice-Chair Bishop  referred to  a discussion with  a trooper                                                                    
the previous summer,  who had relayed there was  about 50 or                                                                    
60 known individuals causing a  problem in his district. The                                                                    
trooper  considered   that  if  the  individuals   could  be                                                                    
apprehended, a large part of  the problem would be solved in                                                                    
Fairbanks. He wondered if the  commissioner could estimate a                                                                    
similar number for the city of Anchorage.                                                                                       
Commissioner  Monegan   was  not  aware  of   a  number  for                                                                    
Anchorage.   He  referenced   the  homelessness   issue  and                                                                    
suggested that  10 percent of  the population  accounted for                                                                    
90  percent  of  the  police   transports.  He  thought  the                                                                    
comments by the  trooper had some basis in  other issues. He                                                                    
thought if  such individuals were held  accountable for what                                                                    
they were doing, the percentage would go down.                                                                                  
Vice-Chair  Bishop   hoped  that  the  bill   would  include                                                                    
education, training,  and treatment so that  offenders would                                                                    
not go back out on to the street to re-offend.                                                                                  
Commissioner Monegan answered in the affirmative.                                                                               
3:47:45 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  SKIDMORE, DIRECTOR,  CRIMINAL DIVISION,  DEPARTMENT OF                                                                    
LAW,  discussed  questions  that  had been  posed  from  the                                                                    
public.  The  questions  included  what  could  be  done  to                                                                    
address  problems, and  how could  people  get the  criminal                                                                    
justice to  be more responsive  to concerns. He  thought the                                                                    
Senate  had already  taken action  by passing  SB 54,  which                                                                    
contained  multiple tools  that allowed  law enforcement  to                                                                    
address  most of  the problems  that  people had  repeatedly                                                                    
(vehicle  thefts, arrests,  immediate  release). He  thought                                                                    
all  of  the concerns  had  been  addressed through  various                                                                    
provisions in SB 54.                                                                                                            
Mr.  Skidmore  emphasized  that  he  agreed  with  what  the                                                                    
commissioner had stated, that SB  54 was not a silver bullet                                                                    
that  would magically  fix everything.  The legislation  did                                                                    
return discretion  to courts; and provided  additional tools                                                                    
to  law  enforcement, prosecutors,  and  courts  to try  and                                                                    
respond to some  of the problems such as  the opioid crisis.                                                                    
He agreed with  Senator Coghill and others  in the assertion                                                                    
that other parts  of SB 91 were very important  in trying to                                                                    
address some of the criminal justice issues in the state.                                                                       
3:49:55 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Olson  thought one criticisms  of the bill  had been                                                                    
that  judges  were  not  exercising   every  tool  at  their                                                                    
disposal.  He thought  Mr. Skidmore  had commented  that the                                                                    
courts had been re-empowered to  mitigate the crime rate. He                                                                    
was referring to  a time frame from ten  years previously to                                                                    
about five years previously.                                                                                                    
Mr.  Skidmore  was  not familiar  with  the  criticism  that                                                                    
judges were  not exercising the  discretion they had  to try                                                                    
and address  problems. He relayed  that ACJC had  found that                                                                    
sentencing  offenders to  lengthy  periods of  incarceration                                                                    
(when  they were  low risk  offenders) was  not helpful  and                                                                    
could  be  counter-productive.  One  of  the  things  SB  91                                                                    
attempted  to   do  was  to  adjust   sentencing  discretion                                                                    
downward slightly  in order  to be more  similar to  that in                                                                    
2005-2006. He  thought that the discretion  had been limited                                                                    
more  than  it  should  have been  for  first-time  Class  C                                                                    
Mr. Skidmore detailed  that SB 54 did not try  to adjust all                                                                    
sentencing provisions  in law. He  thought SB 54  focused on                                                                    
areas where discretion had been  limited too much; including                                                                    
first-time Class C  felonies, which it adjusted  zero to one                                                                    
year. The zero to  one-year sentencing range encompassed two                                                                    
types of  jail: active imprisonment and  suspended time. The                                                                    
provision  would return  discretion  to the  judges and  was                                                                    
trying to strike a balance.                                                                                                     
3:53:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Olson used  the  example of  a  judge sentencing  a                                                                    
high-risk   individual  to   five  years   with  two   years                                                                    
suspended. He thought judges had  suspended sentences to the                                                                    
point where criminals became more antisocial.                                                                                   
Mr. Skidmore  found it difficult to  comment without knowing                                                                    
specifics of the example, but  thought the analogy concerned                                                                    
an individual who  was a repeat felony  offender. He thought                                                                    
there needed  to be some  sanction for such  individuals. He                                                                    
knew that almost  anyone sentenced to time in  jail would be                                                                    
released,  and  the  suspended time  was  hanging  over  the                                                                    
offender's head  while on  probation. He  knew that  DOC was                                                                    
focusing on trying to  reduce recidivism through considering                                                                    
what could  be done while  someone was in custody,  and what                                                                    
could be done when an  individual was released and returning                                                                    
to society.                                                                                                                     
Senator  Dunleavy  thought  there   was  speculation  as  to                                                                    
whether  the  administration  would  make  criminal  justice                                                                    
reform a priority focus for  the coming year. He wondered if                                                                    
there would  be resources moved  within the budget  to focus                                                                    
on  the issue.  He  referenced Alaska's  Liquid Natural  Gas                                                                    
project as an area from which funds might be switched.                                                                          
Commissioner  Monegan  stated  that the  administration  had                                                                    
just  recently had  a  cabinet retreat;  at  which time  the                                                                    
governor had relayed his intention  to work towards a safer,                                                                    
smarter,  and stronger  state.  The  governor had  expressed                                                                    
that  his  priority  was  public  safety.  The  commissioner                                                                    
acknowledged the concerns of member's constituents.                                                                             
3:58:23 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wielechowski recalled  that  the criminal  division                                                                    
had  cut   31  prosecutors  and  staff,   and  thought  that                                                                    
(according  to the  attorney general)  there had  been 7,000                                                                    
fewer prosecutions between 2015 and  2016 as a result of the                                                                    
cuts. The  previous year  the legislature  had added  back 3                                                                    
prosecutors, and he asked if  Mr. Skidmore believed that the                                                                    
department  had   enough  prosecutors  and  staff   so  that                                                                    
criminals were not being set free without consequences.                                                                         
Mr.   Skidmore  stated   that  the   division  needed   more                                                                    
prosecutors,   while   acknowledging  the   state's   fiscal                                                                    
limitations. He thought the LAW  budget was an ongoing topic                                                                    
of  discussion in  the administration.  He  stated that  the                                                                    
department  would follow  the lead  that was  given to  them                                                                    
based on the resources that were available.                                                                                     
Senator  Wielechowski considered  that the  administration's                                                                    
top  priority was  public  safety and  asked  how many  more                                                                    
prosecutors and staff the division  would need. He had heard                                                                    
a statistic that  90 percent of crimes were  drug or alcohol                                                                    
related, and roughly 50 percent  of crimes were committed by                                                                    
people with mental  health issues. He wondered  if the state                                                                    
was devoting  enough resources to substance  abuse treatment                                                                    
and mental health treatment.                                                                                                    
Mr. Skidmore  contemplated society and the  criminal justice                                                                    
system, and thought the issue  of criminality was not solved                                                                    
by merely  considering how many prosecutors  were needed. He                                                                    
emphasized that  more prosecutors  would be needed  if there                                                                    
was more law  enforcement on the streets.  He contended that                                                                    
if there were more  prosecutors, then more defense attorneys                                                                    
and  judges  would be  needed  as  well  as more  space  for                                                                    
whatever  sanctions  were  imposed.  He did  not  think  the                                                                    
issues were straightforward. He  thought it was important to                                                                    
consider society and the entire system as a whole.                                                                              
4:01:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Micciche  thought there seemed to  be no correlation                                                                    
between  spending  and  the  crime rate.  He  asked  if  Mr.                                                                    
Skidmore agreed with the statement.                                                                                             
Mr. Skidmore was unsure of  how to answer. He qualified that                                                                    
law  enforcement and  prosecutors  responded  to the  crimes                                                                    
that existed. He  pondered if it would drive  down the crime                                                                    
rate if the  state simply responded to  crimes that existed.                                                                    
He  thought that  with increased  spending for  the criminal                                                                    
justice  system as  a  whole,  it would  be  easier to  hold                                                                    
people  accountable  and  get  them  the  needed  treatment.                                                                    
Conversely, when the system was  cut back, there was less of                                                                    
the necessary  structure needed to  help people. He  did not                                                                    
want to say there was causation.                                                                                                
Senator  Micciche   referred  to  other  states   that  were                                                                    
spending   money   on   the  opioid   problem,   and   still                                                                    
experiencing increased  crime rates.  He did not  think that                                                                    
the  numbers  were correlated.  He  asked  if there  was  an                                                                    
increase  in opioid  abuse. He  discussed prescription  drug                                                                    
and opioid fatalities  in the state, which  had followed the                                                                    
national trend  of increasing significantly. He  asked about                                                                    
other ways to  measure an increase in opioid  abuse that led                                                                    
to crimes.                                                                                                                      
Mr. Skidmore thought the question  of how to quantify opioid                                                                    
abuse  was not  an easy  question to  answer. He  thought it                                                                    
seemed  to make  sense to  look at  the amount  of treatment                                                                    
that was  available in the  state, as  well as if  there had                                                                    
been an  increase or decrease  in the use of  the treatment.                                                                    
He wondered  about a way  to measure criminal cases  and the                                                                    
percentage associated with alcohol  or drugs. He thought the                                                                    
legislature could undertake measures  to require the data to                                                                    
be gathered.                                                                                                                    
Mr. Skidmore anecdotally  agreed with Senator Wielechowski's                                                                    
assertion that 90  percent of cases were related  to drug or                                                                    
alcohol  use.   He  discussed  his  wife's   practice  as  a                                                                    
healthcare  provider  and  the increased  patient  struggles                                                                    
with alcohol  and drugs. He  did not doubt that  the problem                                                                    
of  opioid   abuse  was  increasing,  but   thought  it  was                                                                    
difficult to measure. He thought  trying to treat those that                                                                    
were suffering  from opioid  addiction was  one of  the most                                                                    
important things the  state could do, and he  thought it was                                                                    
what  the  criminal  justice reform  efforts  had  tried  to                                                                    
Mr. Skidmore  thought SB  54 continued  towards the  goal of                                                                    
assisting those  suffering from opioid addiction  and abuse.                                                                    
He  stated  that  one  of the  reasons  the  department  had                                                                    
supported  the zero  to one-year  sentencing discretion  for                                                                    
the court  (for first-time C  felonies) was that it  was the                                                                    
same amount of  time that the judge legally had  to order an                                                                    
offender   into  residential   treatment.  He   stated  that                                                                    
residential treatment  was needed  for many types  of opioid                                                                    
abuse.  He suggested  that treatment  was one  of the  steps                                                                    
that could be taken to address the problem.                                                                                     
4:06:57 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Micciche   referenced  interrupting  the   flow  of                                                                    
illegal  drugs  into  the  state.   He  discussed  the  many                                                                    
geographic access  points to the  state, and  the propensity                                                                    
for preventing  drugs from entering.  He wondered  about the                                                                    
constitution,  and how  it might  hamper  public safety  and                                                                    
prosecution. He  asked if  privacy was  a problem.  He asked                                                                    
about   the  departments   vision  for   further  prevention                                                                    
Mr.  Skidmore  stated   that  the  administration  certainly                                                                    
wanted  to expand  efforts to  interrupt the  flow of  drugs                                                                    
into  the  state.  He  knew   that  the  administration  had                                                                    
recently spent time analyzing the  problem and believed they                                                                    
had come up with concrete  steps they were hoping to discuss                                                                    
publicly. He  disagreed with the notion  of the constitution                                                                    
being  in the  way. He  affirmed  that the  laws of  privacy                                                                    
prevented officers  of the law  from searching  every single                                                                    
person that  entered the state,  and attested that  he would                                                                    
not  want  to live  in  a  place  where  such a  search  was                                                                    
possible. He  thought it was  important to stop the  flow of                                                                    
drugs while respecting the values that everyone agreed on.                                                                      
Vice-Chair  Bishop remarked  that a  U.S. Customs  agent had                                                                    
thoroughly checked his bags.                                                                                                    
Commissioner  Monegan  stated  that  he  supported  criminal                                                                    
justice   reform   for   financial  reasons   as   well   as                                                                    
humanitarian  reasons. He  thought  that  the savings  would                                                                    
bolster needed  services such as substance  abuse treatment.                                                                    
He discussed  the importance of  a small window of  time for                                                                    
treatment of addiction. He mentioned  the long wait time for                                                                    
treatment.  He  asked  the committee  to  consider  criminal                                                                    
justice  reform as  a  healing concept  rather  than just  a                                                                    
punitive concept.                                                                                                               
4:11:07 PM                                                                                                                    
Chair Coghill thanked the commissioner  and the director for                                                                    
their testimony  on the  bill. He  commented on  the concern                                                                    
for   public   safety   by  the   administration   and   the                                                                    
legislature. He  emphasized the  need for  getting resources                                                                    
to the right  place. He remarked that  society was producing                                                                    
problems faster  than the agencies  knew how to  respond. He                                                                    
considered  that   some  of  the  reforms   were  not  being                                                                    
implemented yet. He reiterated three dates to make note of:                                                                     
     July 2016 - reforms began to be implemented, and                                                                           
     reinvestment into programs began                                                                                           
     January 2017 - community supervision and parole                                                                            
     policies put into place                                                                                                    
     January 2018 - pretrial supervision will begin                                                                             
Chair  Coghill emphasized  that  pretrial supervision  would                                                                    
begin  for the  first time  in the  state, which  he thought                                                                    
would   be    greatly   beneficial.   He    explained   that                                                                    
approximately   $26  million   had   been  focused   towards                                                                    
different areas such as victim's  advocacy and Department of                                                                    
Corrections  treatment  issues.  He  acknowledged  that  new                                                                    
efforts  were  not  immediately functional  or  perfect.  He                                                                    
recommended that  members and the administration  review the                                                                    
ACJC report that came out  October 22, 2017. He thought many                                                                    
of  the  issues  discussed  during   the  meeting  would  be                                                                    
addressed  in the  commission's report,  including the  next                                                                    
steps for addressing behavioral health issues.                                                                                  
Chair Coghill  appreciated comments  by LAW  that referenced                                                                    
returning  discretion to  judges  and tools  to hold  people                                                                    
accountable.  He  mentioned  issues  after SB  91,  and  the                                                                    
resultant public  outcry and  dissatisfaction of  police. He                                                                    
thought it  was important to get  the tools in the  hands of                                                                    
LAW and  police to  ensure that when  someone cried  out for                                                                    
help, there was the means to help them.                                                                                         
4:15:02 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Micciche referred  to  his  constituency and  asked                                                                    
about car  thefts, burglaries, and shoplifting.  He referred                                                                    
to  store owners  no longer  attempting to  stop shoplifting                                                                    
because  of  lack  of  response  from  law  enforcement.  He                                                                    
wondered what to  tell constituents that believed  SB 91 was                                                                    
the cause of increased crime.                                                                                                   
Mr. Skidmore thought  that the repeal of SB  91 would result                                                                    
in the loss  of many important steps that had  been taken to                                                                    
reform the  criminal justice system. The  overall concept of                                                                    
the effort was  to reduce recidivism. He  thought there were                                                                    
important concepts in  SB 91 that should not  be thrown out.                                                                    
He  thought the  areas  of concern  were  regarding Phase  1                                                                    
(classification   and    sentencing).   After    they   were                                                                    
implemented,  LAW had  determined that  some of  the reforms                                                                    
had  unintended consequences,  and the  department had  made                                                                    
suggestions to make  alterations to the law.  He thought the                                                                    
right  steps  had  been  taken  in  introducing  SB  54.  He                                                                    
acknowledged that SB 54 would  not be an immediate solution,                                                                    
but thought that it provided  appropriate discretion for law                                                                    
enforcement, prosecutors,  and judges to try  and respond to                                                                    
Mr.  Skidmore reiterated  that repealing  SB  91 would  undo                                                                    
many of the good things  that had been accomplished. He used                                                                    
the example of an individual  on probation, and the efficacy                                                                    
of using incentives along with disincentives.                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Hoffman thanked  the committee  members for  their                                                                    
questions.   He    thanked   the   testifiers    for   their                                                                    
participation.  He  thought  members of  the  public  should                                                                    
identify that the Senate was  concerned about public safety,                                                                    
and was  sincere in its  efforts to correct and  reverse the                                                                    
problems facing  the state.  He reminded that  SB 54  was in                                                                    
the other body  awaiting action. He specified  that the bill                                                                    
included an  extension of ACJC,  and the committee  had just                                                                    
received the  commission's latest  report the  previous day.                                                                    
He  emphasized  that the  Senate  was  willing and  able  to                                                                    
address the safety of the people of Alaska.                                                                                     
Co-Chair  Hoffman discussed  the  agenda  for the  following                                                                    
4:20:01 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 4:19 p.m.                                                                                          

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