Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/24/1993 03:00 PM House HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 105: BOOT CAMP FOR NONVIOLENT FIRST OFFENDERS Number 562 REP. ED WILLIS spoke as PRIME SPONSOR of HB 105, saying it would both help teach young offenders respect for the law and give them a second chance, where a jail term might do them more harm than good. He read a sponsor statement, which is on file in the committee room. He said the bill was aimed at nonviolent first offenders and at least 24 states now offer such programs, with various conditions and age limits. TAPE 93-45, SIDE A Number 000 REP. WILLIS said the program could help reduce overcrowding and recidivism. He said the bill would limit participation to those under 26 years of age and charged with their first felony; involve military-style discipline and physical training, counseling and training; would last for less than 150 days; would refer graduates to sentencing court for probation; would refer those who failed to complete the program to other correctional institutions; and would require the commissioner to report on the program's success or failure to the legislature. Number 052 (Chair Toohey noted that Lloyd Rupp, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, had arrived.) REP. CON BUNDE, a CO-SPONSOR of HB 105, spoke in support of HB 105. He asked where the state would find boot camp instructors with the proper training and talents to perform the job well. Number 072 REP. BRICE jokingly asked if Rep. Bunde were volunteering for the job. REP. WILLIS deferred on the question to Commissioner Rupp. He added that some states send prospective boot camp drill instructors (DIs) to U.S. Marine Corps training centers. Number 092 REP. VEZEY asked whether the zero fiscal note was accurate. REP. WILLIS said he believed it was, but deferred to the commissioner as a better authority. Number 110 CHAIR TOOHEY asked rhetorically whether the costs of having youthful offenders in boot camps might not be offset by avoiding the costs of placing them in adult prisons. Number 120 COMMISSIONER LLOYD RUPP, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, testified in Juneau in favor of HB 105. He said he was familiar with the concept of boot camps, but said that early boot camps erred by placing instructors in difficult situations without adequate training. He spoke in favor of good training for such instructors so they could impart the lessons of military discipline, including personal discipline, accountability and responsibility. He referred to decaying state-owned agricultural properties at Point MacKenzie, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, and said the department anticipated starting July 1 to halt the deterioration by use of heavy equipment. He asked if the program could be expanded to cover first-time misdemeanants, as there were not enough first-time youthful felons to make the program work well. He asked for language in the bill that would have the boot camps stress personal accountability and responsibility, as well as a strong work ethic. He also said that, lacking a management information system, the Department of Corrections could not provide an annual report comparing the recidivism rates for boot camp inmates and other prisoners. Number 195 CHAIR TOOHEY expressed support for the concept of boot camps, but asked if it could be done at less cost than indicated on the fiscal note by transferring such prisoners out of Alaska for treatment. COMMISSIONER RUPP said his department viewed the daily cost of boot camp treatment as low, compared to the $118 per day cost for incarceration in a prison. He noted that the state's prisons were filling to 104 percent of capacity and it was important to do something to reduce prison occupancy. He said the department has contracted out community residential centers (CRCs). He said few states send prisoners out-of-state for shock incarceration or boot camps because of the special requirements and liabilities. He said he would like to start the program on a small scale, then build it up if successful. He said the daily cost of boot camps of about $36 would be less than the $50 daily cost for CRCs. He said the boot camp program would cost about $1.3 million in operating costs, most of which would go for personnel and substance abuse programs, which he said was an essential part of successful programs. Such substance abuse counseling would be contracted from Outside firms, he said. The state departments of Labor and Education would also help boot camp inmates learn to deal with the problem of alcoholism and the challenge of employment. He said providing sobriety, marketability and support to inmates would help the inmates out of the state corrections system. Number 257 REP. B. DAVIS asked a clarifying question as to where Point MacKenzie was located. COMMISSIONER RUPP said it was located across Cook Inlet from Anchorage. He described the large dairy farms and the barns and farm buildings which were in disrepair. Number 287 REP. BUNDE asked what "prison gratuities" were. COMMISSIONER RUPP answered that the gratuities referred to "gate money" given to prisoners upon their release. He also noted that a Department of Education year-long training program was available to provide youths with job skills, and the program might be applied to the boot camp program. Number 312 REP. VEZEY referred to the fiscal note and asked whether it assumed 12,500 participants in the boot camp program. He asked whether the inmates would otherwise be incarcerated. COMMISSIONER RUPP responded that boot camp inmates would otherwise have been housed in adult prisons at a cost of about $100 per day. REP. VEZEY said he would like to see figures demonstrating the savings of the boot camp program. Number 338 COMMISSIONER RUPP noted that the boot camp program would not include capital expenditures, as the inmates would be housed in relocatable modular buildings. He noted that prison cells cost about $110,000 to build the first new prison cell, plus the cost of operation. He noted that the aim of the boot camp program was to prevent youths from committing future crimes, not just incarcerating them as punishment. Number 352 REP. BUNDE asked Rep. Willis' reaction to the amendments proposed by Commissioner Rupp. REP. WILLIS said he was open to any changes to improve his bill. REP. BUNDE asked whether it was possible to reduce the travel budget expenses for the boot camp advisory board called for in HB 105. Number 366 COMMISSIONER RUPP said the figure of $14,400 for travel expenses was a rough estimate, but he could reexamine the issue. Number 382 REP. BUNDE asked Rep. Willis to return to the committee with answers to his questions and those of Rep. Vezey, and with responses to Commissioner Rupp's proposed amendments, so that the committee could consider moving the bill out of committee. Number 390 REP. NICHOLIA offered a friendly amendment to allow Native corporations to contract with the state Department of Corrections to operate boot camps, as about 47 percent of prisoners in Alaska state prisons were Alaska Natives. She said the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) supported such an amendment and she read a letter from the TCC indicating that support. She read the amendment to HB 105, numbered as 8-LSO467\A.1, dated 3/24/93. Number 415 REP. WILLIS said he did not object to the amendment. REP. BUNDE said he appreciated privatization and it might be worthwhile to have HB 105 returned to the committee with Rep. Nicholia's amendment included. Number 426 COMMISSIONER RUPP said he would welcome such an amendment, and said the department had hoped to find ways to spread the program out across the state, and in rural areas in particular. REP. VEZEY objected to the motion. He said it would be better to allow for-profit corporations to contract out boot camp programs, as they would be more motivated than nonprofits to operate such camps efficiently. Number 440 CHAIR TOOHEY asked Commissioner Rupp, Rep. Vezey and Rep. Nicholia to work on the bill and return to the full committee with the amendments. She said HB 105 would be placed on the committee's schedule as soon as possible to consider the amendments. She then ADJOURNED the meeting at 5:10 p.m.