Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/10/1995 01:06 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HJUD - 03/10/95                                                               
 HB 200 - CUSTODY OF PRISONERS                                               
 Number 700                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER read the title of the bill and announced that since           
 the bill sponsor had stepped out of the meeting, they would start             
 taking testimony.                                                             
 JERRY SHRINER, Special Assistant, Commissioner's Office, Department           
 of Corrections, explained that the effect of this bill would be to            
 transfer the operation of community jails, of which there are 15              
 across the state, to the Department of Corrections for their                  
 operation management under contract with the municipalities that              
 had these jails.  There are no fiscal notes attached to this bill.            
 The department would speak on behalf of it.  They feel that the               
 Department of Corrections is an appropriate place for the operation           
 of these facilities.  He was not yet familiar with the details.               
 Although there is no fiscal note showing operating funds for these            
 contract jails in the FY 96 budget, that amount would be the same             
 whether they were operated by the Department of Corrections, or by            
 the Department of Public Safety.  The only extra costs would be               
 39.3 thousand dollars for start up costs to assist in negotiating             
 the contracts which would take effect July 1.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if this would impact the problem the               
 Department of Corrections has with jail space.                                
 MR. SHRINER said it would not affect the amount of space.  The                
 people who are in these facilities are in there for relatively                
 short periods of time, generally pending transfer, either to a                
 larger holding facility, or to serve a short sentence for a DWI, or           
 something like that.                                                          
 Number 825                                                                    
 LEUITENANT TED BACHMAN, Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public           
 Safety, manages the community jails.  He gave an overview of the              
 functions of the operation.  There are currently 15 facilities                
 throughout the state which are all owned and operated individually            
 by local communities.  They are contracted by the state to provide            
 jail services, not only for the communities for which they are in,            
 but for the surrounding communities as well.  They are utilized by            
 local police departments, the State Troopers, and everyone who has            
 a need to care for prisoners.  The current program is being                   
 operated at fiscal year 93 levels.  About two years ago, there was            
 a task force formed by the Governor which was made up of all groups           
 of people who deal with the programs; from the legislature, to the            
 contractors, to members of all the departments affected by this               
 program.  This task force took a comprehensive look at the entire             
 program and made recommendations as to how it should be operated.             
 The program has been in existence for over 20 years.  It originated           
 in the, then, Division of Corrections, within the Department of               
 Health and Social Services, and was originally designed to provide            
 pre-arraignment or first-24-hour holding facilities for rural                 
 areas.  Once persons were arraigned, they could be transferred into           
 the major areas into a state owned institution.  As the years went            
 by, the courts and every other part of the criminal justice system            
 moved out into those rural areas, and those facilities then became            
 pretrial, post-trial, and sometimes even facilities that held                 
 sentenced people.  They have evolved much further than just pre-              
 arraignment facilities.  During the late 70's the Department of Law           
 reviewed the program, and made the recommendation that facilities             
 that were used for pre-arraignment only, should be transferred to             
 DPS.  And those facilities used beyond the pre-arraignment                    
 situations should be maintained by the Division of Corrections,               
 which is now the Department of Corrections.  At that time we                  
 inherited all of the facilities that existed, but they have changed           
 dramatically since then.                                                      
 Number 850                                                                    
 DENNY DEWITT, Aide to Representative Eldon Mulder, said, as it has            
 been explained, the purpose of HB 200 is to implement the                     
 recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Community Jails.              
 What is happening, is that the administrative structure of who                
 operates community jails is being moved from DPS to Corrections.              
 This bill simply enables that.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER arrived and also provided information             
 on his bill.                                                                  
 TAPE 95-29, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if this might be a window of opportunity           
 to initiate a privatization of a portion of our corrections                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said that was a good question which they had            
 been discussing in their subcommittee, and planned to continue                
 spending a lot more time on.  Privatization has proven to be a                
 possibility, and a cost saving measure throughout the country.  Our           
 contract in Arizona is for $59 a day, per person.  That includes              
 making a profit and amortization of their debt.  When you compare             
 apples to apples in Alaska, we are well over $150.  Privatization             
 outside works, but you have to have some factors built in there.              
 One factor is scale.  The institution down there is a 500 bed                 
 facility.  In Alaska, he believed we only have one facility nearing           
 that magnitude, so the scale does not fit.  The second thing that             
 plays into it is the health care costs.  The individuals sent to              
 Arizona were picked partially for the fact that they did not pose             
 any outstanding major medical problems.  We are keeping most of the           
 high maintenance prisoners.                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER continued, stating that in the interest of              
 where we go from where we are at; he had a go ahead from the                  
 Commissioner and the Governor to continue looking at privatization            
 of certain facilities within the state.  As you know, institutions            
 are bulging at the seams, so we are going to look at the                      
 possibility of private facilities.  He felt communities should be             
 willing and able to pick up some of the cost for incarceration in             
 their villages.  This is something they plan to pursue through AML            
 and through their committee.  A good number of people like the idea           
 of "three strikes, you're out" and bringing adolescents up into               
 adult court for heinous crimes.  They like getting tough with                 
 crime.  But getting tough with crime has a cost.  Right now, some             
 of us are paying for that cost, and others are not.  It is worthy             
 of discussion.                                                                
 CHAIRMAN PORTER mentioned that these facilities were built with               
 state funds and given to the municipalities.  The people staffing             
 these facilities are municipal employees who often have other                 
 municipal duties, besides the guard or matron duties at the jail.             
 So the state is subsidizing that a little bit.  They do not adopt             
 their own municipal crime codes, so all prisoners are charged under           
 state code, which makes them the state's responsibility, rather               
 than the communities' responsibility.  The communities are not                
 contributing a dime.  This has to stop.                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move HB 200 out of committee            
 with individual recommendations and fiscal notes.  Seeing no                  
 objection, the bill moved.                                                    

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