Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/23/1994 01:30 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 334 "An Act relating to criminal sentencing; and relating to mandatory life imprisonment, parole, good time credit, pardon, commutation of sentence, reprieve, furlough, and service of sentence at a correctional restitution center for offenders with at least three serious felony convictions." REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE testified on behalf of CSHB 334 (JUD). He asserted that the legislation will impact the "worst of the worst." It is limited to crimes against persons. He suggested that as few as five persons a year would be tried under the legislation. He maintained that the cost of the legislation is difficult to ascertain. He observed that the legislation allows prosecutorial discretion. Representative Bunde clarified that juvenile records are sealed. Juvenile convictions would not be considered. In response to a question by Co-Chair MacLean, Representative Bunde estimated the recidivism rate in the 2 state of Alaska at 85 percent. DIANE SCHENKER, SPECIAL ASSISTANT, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS clarified that the department's data system does not tract recidivism rates. She estimated that 10 percent of offenders would have two prior felony convictions. DEAN GUANELI, CHIEF ASSISTANT ATTORNEY, DEPARTMENT OF LAW agreed there are a large number of repeat offenders. He described crimes that would be covered by the legislation. Mr. Guaneli provided the Committee with an overview of CSHB 334 (JUD). He observed that the legislation is commonly known as "three strikes you're out." The legislation provides that in the case of a person convicted of a class A or unclassified felony offense, with two previous successive and serious felony convictions the prosecution would have the discretion to seek a mandatory 99 year sentence. He noted that after 49 and a half years the offender could petition for release. In response to a question by Representative Hoffman, Mr. Guaneli noted that convictions prior to the effective date of the legislation would be included in consideration of previous convictions. Only the third offense would have to take place after the legislation's effective date. Mr. Guaneli observed that references to the Governor's pardon power was removed. He emphasized that the Governor's pardon power is constitutional. Representative Brown provided members with an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligence, February 15, 1994, page 9 (copy on file). The article, "Three strikes' May Be Harder Than Intended," discussed Washington state legislation. She noted that the article quotes law enforcement officers' concerns that suspects are more prone to violence when facing a third conviction. She asked if it is equitable to require the same sentence of offenders of differing degrees of offenses. Representative Bunde suggested that it would be fair to require a mandatory 99 year sentence, in multiple convictions, regardless of the offense. Representative Brown questioned if the legislation would make offenders more violent when cornered by the police. Representative Brown maintained that those people convicted of multiple crimes or murder currently are receiving 99 years. Mr Guaneli agreed that sentencing practice generally give 99 years for cases involving murder when there was a prior offense. Representative Hoffman expressed concern with the fiscal 3 impact of the legislation. Ms. Schenker discussed the Department of Corrections' fiscal note. Representative Bunde maintained that estimation of fiscal impact should consider that offenders might have spent extra years in detention under additional offenses had they been released. Representative Hanley suggested that there is a subset of persons with more than three convictions. He reiterated that the additional defender and prosecution costs would be mitigated. Co-Chair Larson clarified that three felonies committed simultaneously would be considered one conviction. Representative Brown asked how the legislation would effect the criminal justice system as a whole. (Tape Change, HFC 94-78, Side 2) Mr. Guaneli emphasized that the legislation is not a radical departure from current presumptive sentencing. He stressed that the notion of increasing penalties for successive offenses is not new to Alaska. He acknowledged that trials will be long and difficult. He added that motions to set aside previous convictions will be more common. He noted that the majority of non-murder offenders, with multiple convictions, would be sentenced to between 30 - and 50 years under presumptive sentences, without the legislation. He estimated that the legislation would result in these offenders receiving double the sentence. Representative Brown referred to page 1, line 13, "punishments for criminal offenses should be proportionate to both the seriousness of the crime and the prior criminal history of the offender." She questioned if the issuance of the same sentence for a person who murders and a person who doesn't is appropriate. Representative Bunde pointed out that those that come before the purview of the bill have a history of crime. He emphasized that prisoners receive time off for good behavior. He asserted that the general public is looking to the legislature to address their concerns. In response to a question by Representative Hoffman, Ms. Schenker addressed the needs of a new correctional facility. She noted that the prisons are already overcrowded. She estimated that the state of Alaska will begin to experience the fiscal impact of the legislation in twelve years. She discussed the department's attempts in acquiring additional 4 beds. Representative Brown noted concerns that a disproportional number of minorities could be prosecuted under the discretion to prosecute. Mr. Guaneli stressed that discretion to prosecute would not be based on racial or other improper lines. He suggested that the provision for prosecutorial discretion could positively affect the proportion of minority cases. Representative Brown queried what factors would be present for prosecutors to seek the mandatory 99 year sentence. Mr. Guaneli stressed the lack of rehabilitation potential and greater than ordinary culpability. Representative Martin echoed concerns that race not be a factor in the decision to prosecute. Discussion pursued in regards to funding needs and sources for crime legislation passed by the Committee. Representative Hanley MOVED to report CSHB 334 (JUD) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. Co-Chair MacLean OBJECTED. A roll call vote was taken on the motion. IN FAVOR: Hanley, Martin, Parnell, Therriault, Larson OPPOSED: Brown, Hoffman, MacLean Representatives Foster, Grussendorf and Navarre were not present for the vote. Lacking a quorum majority of six the MOTION FAILED (5-3). HB 334 failed to move from Committee on a vote of 5 to 3.