Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/23/1995 02:05 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HHES - 03/23/95                                                               
 HB 87 - AUTHORIZING YOUTH COURTS                                            
                                                                               
 Number 969                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BETTYE DAVIS, sponsor of the bill, said this bill              
 was carried all the way through the House and died in Senate Rules            
 last year.  This bill had been introduced by then-Representative              
 Joe Sitton.  Representative B. Davis said youth courts is a program           
 that means a lot to her.  She was in Anchorage when youth courts              
 began there.  The program has been very successful.  Anchorage is             
 the only Alaskan city that has the program, and she wanted to put             
 it into statute so other cities and areas may also be able to have            
 this model.                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said this program works.  It creates pride            
 in students.  Some children who previously experienced problems in            
 school have gone through the program and have changed.  It does not           
 matter under what capacity they served.  Perhaps they were a juror,           
 or a judge, or a lawyer.  Whatever role they participated in, the             
 students participated wholeheartedly.  In fact, some of the                   
 punishments the students come up with are more restrictive than               
 what is handed down in adult courts.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1035                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS added that many of these youngsters have              
 gone to college and have decided to be lawyers, judges, etc., due             
 to their experiences in the program.  Representative B. Davis was             
 pleased to present a videotape that explained youth courts.  This             
 has been one of the most popular bills for student study when they            
 participate in the Close-Up program.  Representative B. Davis' aide           
 has had many students inquiring about the bill, and asking how they           
 could help get it passed through the House and Senate.                        
                                                                               
 Number 1081                                                                   
                                                                               
 LIZ ROBERTS, Legislative Aide to Representative Bettye Davis, said            
 the Close-Up students really liked the fact that Youth Courts                 
 represent real democracy.  Youth offenders were really going to be            
 tried by their peers, instead of by grownups who live in a                    
 different generation and frequently, a different kind of world.               
                                                                               
 MS. ROBERTS explained defendants have to be first-time offenders,             
 they must be charged with a misdemeanor, and they must get                    
 permission to be tried in Youth Court.  The wonderful thing about             
 being the defendant in Youth Court is that when it is all over and            
 the defendant is found guilty, there is nothing on the individual's           
 criminal record.  The person only has community service to perform.           
 The recidivism rate is about 38 percent less than for children who            
 go through the regular juvenile courts.                                       
                                                                               
 MS. ROBERTS added this is a learning experience for all involved.             
                                                                               
 Number  1140                                                                  
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE said he has been previously involved with Youth                
 Court.  One of the things he liked the most is that kids can fool             
 adults, but they are not very good at fooling other children.  Co-            
 Chair Bunde endorsed the statements of Representative B. Davis in             
 that sometimes young people call for a more severe and/or realistic           
 penalty whereas adults are more inclined to make excuses.                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS added that it is a good way for adults to             
 help students learn and respect the law.  This program works.  She            
 spoke of a friend's daughter who was having some problems as a                
 teenager.  She was running with the wrong crowd.  A flyer was sent            
 around to the schools about Youth Courts, and the girl decided she            
 wanted to be involved.  Her parents got all the information and got           
 her enrolled.  This girl has gone from a "C" student to an "A"                
 student because she now wants to be a lawyer.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 1209                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON said Youth Courts originated in                 
 Texas.  Representative Robinson had looked into the program while             
 she was working for Representative B. Davis.  That program was just           
 beginning, and it was experiencing incredible success.  It was                
 beginning to expand all over Texas.  Representative Robinson asked            
 if Ms. Roberts had looked at the Texas program, or if only the                
 Anchorage model was used for the drafting of the bill.                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said only the Alaska model was used, but              
 there are many states that are starting Youth Courts.                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she may still have some information.             
 Texas was starting to set up training programs for people to visit            
 communities, train the youth, set up the programs and start the               
 operation of the programs.  Clearly, the program in Texas was                 
 experiencing incredible successes.                                            
                                                                               
 Number 1261                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY noticed there were three fiscal notes amounting to            
 zero in the packet.  She asked if those would carry through for the           
 next ten years, if the program were to continue in Alaska.                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said this program will never have a state             
 fiscal note.                                                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE commented that while the fiscal notes are            
 currently zero, HESS Committee members need to remember that in the           
 future this program will have a negative impact on state funds.               
 Considering the level of recidivism coming with the bill, the state           
 will see less impact on the juvenile system in the future.  The               
 fiscal note, therefore, should be negative.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1322                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the program is funded through federal                
 grants.                                                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said the City of Anchorage has received               
 money for this program in a variety of ways.  The municipality does           
 give some money toward Youth Courts, but mostly funding comes from            
 volunteers and professionals who want the program to succeed.                 
 Donations are also accepted.  Therefore, as a whole this program is           
 privately funded.                                                             
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the bill passes a mandate onto the city              
 that says it must provide Youth Courts.                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said no.  No mandates are being passed.               
 This is a program that is being picked up by the community.  If a             
 community does not choose to implement Youth Courts, that is fine.            
                                                                               
 Number 1354                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG said on page 4, lines 1 through 4 of           
 the bill, it reads of a legal assistance grant fund that will be              
 created within the department, and there will be legislative                  
 appropriations to the fund.  There is a provision in the bill,                
 therefore, to allow for such a fund, and Representative Rokeberg              
 was curious about where this money comes from.  This section                  
 appears to allow for legislative appropriations if the program can            
 get some.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said he was right.  Apparently, there is a            
 national organization that provides monies for Youth Courts.  That            
 national organization wants the statute to stipulate that if a                
 grant comes through, it is to come through the state agency and               
 then filter down to the organization that organizes the Youth                 
 Courts.  That is the understanding of Representative B. Davis.  If            
 the program never got any money there would be no need to have the            
 statute.  However, if the statute is already set up, a system is              
 already in place and the money can filter through the state.                  
                                                                               
 Number 1401                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE observed that the government will not give the                 
 grants directly to non-profits.  Money has to filter through the              
 state.  For the record, there is no fiscal note involved with these           
 programs, and no general fund expenditures are anticipated with               
 this bill.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1420                                                                   
                                                                               
 LINDA EGAN, Representing the Youth Commission in Juneau, said she             
 is one of two adult members of that commission.  She introduced a             
 student member of the commission, Amy MacKinnon.  Ms. Egan said               
 this has been one of the main projects of the Youth Commission, and           
 a lot of time has been spent in pursuit of the Youth Courts                   
 program.  The same videotape which will be seen shortly by the HESS           
 Committee members was also seen by Juneau assembly members, school            
 board members and the superintendent of schools.   They have been             
 very supportive of this program.                                              
                                                                               
 MS. EGAN said the law community is very supportive of this concept            
 also.  The program on the video is different than the program in              
 place in Anchorage.  The video shows a scaled-down version of the             
 program in which the students have already pleaded guilty.  In                
 Anchorage, the program is different.  However, this type of                   
 smaller-scale program is being investigated for Juneau, because of            
 Juneau's smaller population.                                                  
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE summarized the program.  He said basically, someone            
 enters the Youth Courts, pleads guilty, and then throws him or                
 herself on the mercy of the Youth Court.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1472                                                                   
                                                                               
 AMY MacKINNON, Student representative, Youth Commission,                      
 acknowledged that was the way the program would work in Juneau.               
 However, the accused is supposedly going to get more benefit out of           
 their punishment, and they will not have a criminal record.                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE said whatever the punishment might be, it will not             
 include a criminal record.  Ms. MacKinnon acknowledged that he was            
 correct.  Co-Chair Bunde asked about Ms. MacKinnon's involvement              
 with the Youth Court.                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. MacKINNON said this was her first year on the program.  She               
 began in September.                                                           
                                                                               
 MS. EGAN said Amy was on the Youth Commission, however, she is not            
 involved in the Juneau Youth Court Program.                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked Ms. Egan and Ms. MacKinnon to talk HESS                  
 Committee members through the video.                                          
                                                                               
 MS. EGAN said the video speaks for itself.                                    
 Number 1535                                                                   
                                                                               
 A video was presented about Youth Courts, showing how they work,              
 how students can get involved, and a true Youth Court case of a               
 basketball player who was involved in stealing money from a girl's            
 purse.  Because it began as a practical joke, and the boy did not             
 want to jeopardize his basketball season, he asked to work through            
 the Youth Court.                                                              
                                                                               
 Number 2041                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked if Amy MacKinnon could tell the HESS Committee           
 members what happened to the basketball player.                               
                                                                               
 MS. MacKINNON said the boy had to pay restitution, apologize to the           
 girl and perform community service.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 2080                                                                   
                                                                               
 ELMER LINDSTROM, Special Assistant to Commissioner Perdue,                    
 Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), said the                     
 department is supportive of the bill.                                         
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE closed public testimony.                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON made a motion to move HB 87 from committee            
 with individual recommendations and suggested a "strong letter" to            
 the Judiciary Committee to move the bill along.  There were no                
 objections, and the bill was passed out of committee.                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON noted the bill also had a Finance Committee           
 Referral.  She felt the bill is important, and asked if it would be           
 within the bounds of the HESS Committee members to write a letter             
 to the Chair of the Finance Committee saying there is no need to              
 send the bill to that committee.                                              
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE said that was not the role of the HESS Committee,              
 however, he was sure Representative B. Davis would look into that             
 option.                                                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON offered the HESS Committee's assistance in            
 such a case.                                                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS said she thought the bill may be waived               
 from that committee, but it was not.  She said she would continue             
 to look into the matter.                                                      
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked Ms. Egan and Ms. MacKinnon to give HESS                  
 Committee members an update on Juneau's Youth Court program next              
 year.  They said they would be happy to do so.                                
                                                                               
 Number 2147                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if any student, whether they be a freshman or           
 a senior, can be on the Youth Court as long as their grades are up.           
 The answer was yes.                                                           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked if, as a freshman, Ms. MacKinnon would be                
 brave enough to sentence a senior, especially a high school jock.             
                                                                               
 MS. MacKINNON explained that the "jock" would not know who,                   
 exactly, handed down the sentence because everyone is in a jury               
 with 11 other people.                                                         

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