Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/23/1995 02:05 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.