Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/12/2003 03:25 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 303 - USE CRIMINAL FINES FOR YOUTH COURTS                                                                                  
Number 0548                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  final order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 303, "An  Act relating to youth  courts and to                                                               
the recommended use  of criminal fines to fund  the activities of                                                               
youth courts; and relating to accounting for criminal fines."                                                                   
Number 0492                                                                                                                     
CLIFF  STONE,  Staff  to Representative  Dan  Ogg,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, presented  HB 303 on  behalf of  Representative Ogg,                                                               
sponsor.   He paraphrased  from the  sponsor statement,  which in                                                               
part read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                      
     The foremost  concern facing Youth Courts  in the State                                                                    
     of Alaska is funding.   These programs are dependent on                                                                    
     the  Juvenile  Accountability   Incentive  Block  Grant                                                                    
     (JAIBG),  a  federal  grant  administered  through  the                                                                    
     Division  of Juvenile  Justice.    The current  federal                                                                    
     budget for  FY04 does not  include any funding  for the                                                                    
     This bill would separately  account for fines that have                                                                    
     been  imposed   under  the  Sentencing   and  Probation                                                                    
     statutes.    The  legislature may  then  appropriate  a                                                                    
     prescribed  percentage of  those fines  that have  been                                                                    
     collected to the Youth Courts.                                                                                             
     The  permissive "may"  and the  inclusion of  the final                                                                    
     sentence  of the  bill  had been  found  by the  Alaska                                                                    
     Supreme  Court   to  not   constitute  unconstitutional                                                                  
     dedicated  funds because  the legislature  continues to                                                                    
     be able to appropriate money as it sees fit.                                                                               
MR. STONE, in  conclusion, indicated that a portion  of the funds                                                               
for the Council  on Domestic Violence and  Sexual Assault (CDVSA)                                                               
is acquired in  a manner similar to what is  being proposed by HB
303 for youth court funding.                                                                                                    
Number 0351                                                                                                                     
LISA  ALBERT-KONECKY,  Program  Coordinator, Mat-Su  Youth  Court                                                               
(MSYC),  said that  she  has worked  with  juvenile offenders  in                                                               
Alaska for over 17 years.  She continued:                                                                                       
     I'd like  to state that  youth courts around  the state                                                                    
     are  doing an  important job  for Alaska.   Because  of                                                                    
     limited  funds for  state probation-officer  positions,                                                                    
     the  state  cannot  address  juvenile  [crime]  in  its                                                                    
     earliest stage.   Youth courts have taken  a burden off                                                                    
     the  shoulders   of  local  JPOs   [juvenile  probation                                                                    
     officers], who can now concentrate  on the more serious                                                                    
     juvenile offenders.  Currently,  the Mat-Su Youth Court                                                                    
     handles  25 percent  of the  juvenile offenders  in the                                                                    
     [Matanuska-Susitna]  Mat-Su  valley.    Our  recidivism                                                                    
     rate has  stayed under  9 percent  and was  7.5 percent                                                                    
     for last year.                                                                                                             
     Other  significant  statistics  include:   our  student                                                                    
     members have  put in  over 19,000  hours of  service to                                                                    
     their  community  in  the   Mat-Su  Youth  Court  since                                                                    
     program  inception,  [and]  our  students  average  104                                                                    
     hours  each during  their involvement  in the  program.                                                                    
     The  program  also  has   taken  on  first-time  "minor                                                                    
     consuming"  cited  teens,  [and]  since  starting  this                                                                    
     project, we  have dealt  with 108  of those  cases, and                                                                    
     those  involved possession  or consumption  of alcohol.                                                                    
     ... With  an annual  growth of rate  of 7  percent, the                                                                    
     Mat-Su valley  needs all the resources  we can possibly                                                                    
     get  to address  our community  needs.   Please support                                                                    
     House Bill 303.  Thank you very much for your support.                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE predicted  that there would be  a tremendous amount                                                               
of  support  for  HB  303   from  the  House  Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee.  She  thanked Ms. Albert-Konecky and  the student MSYC                                                               
members for their work.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM asked  what the recidivism rate  was prior to                                                               
the MSYC's establishment.                                                                                                       
MS.  ALBERT-KONECKY   indicated  that  she  did   not  have  that                                                               
Number 0201                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM said that it  is difficult for him to approve                                                               
of  a  program  without  any empirical  data  showing  that  that                                                               
program serves a purpose.                                                                                                       
MS.  ALBERT-KONECKY   relayed  that  she'd  formerly   worked  at                                                               
McLaughlin Youth  Center, which had  a recidivism rate  of around                                                               
50 percent.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE remarked  that one of the points of  the program is                                                               
the  recognition  that youth  are  going  to commit  crimes  and,                                                               
therefore, there  has to be  some societal mechanism  for dealing                                                               
with  those crimes.   She  offered her  belief that  youth courts                                                               
serve  a  portion  of  the  community, and  that  judgment  by  a                                                               
youthful offender's peers  has a greater effect  than judgment by                                                               
adults.  She  said that she has seen the  youth court program "do                                                               
miracles," adding, "I think this program is amazing."                                                                           
MR. STONE, in  an effort to allay  Representative Holm's concern,                                                               
said  that a  2002 study  done by  the Urban  Institute's Justice                                                               
Policy  Center gathered  information from  four states  - Alaska,                                                               
Arizona, Maryland, and Missouri.   He said that according to this                                                               
study, Alaska has  only a 6-percent recidivism  rate, whereas the                                                               
"normal system" has a 23-percent recidivism rate.                                                                               
TAPE 03-61, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
MR. STONE  mentioned that  all of the  youth that  participate in                                                               
youth court programs are advocates of these programs.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  said that  he agrees  with the  bill, and                                                               
that he was involved with the  Anchorage Youth Court.  He offered                                                               
his belief  that often, before  the youth court  was established,                                                               
nothing happened to  youthful offenders because of  the volume of                                                               
cases in the regular system.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said that  he  is  big supporter  of  youth                                                               
courts,  but   acknowledged  that   the  statistics   before  the                                                               
committee  are not  particularly useful.   He  predicted, though,                                                               
that  the  aforementioned  study  probably  does  show  that  the                                                               
recidivism rate  does go down in  a particular area when  a youth                                                               
court  is established  in that  area.   He said  he is  wondering                                                               
whether expanding  the role of  youth courts would allow  them to                                                               
deal effectively with more offenders than they are currently.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE OGG said that he'd  been involved with Kodiak Teen                                                               
Court, and indicated that there is  a danger of a youth court not                                                               
having a sufficient  number of youths involved in it  to meet its                                                               
needs  if a  program  expands too  much.   Before  a youth  court                                                               
expands, he remarked, it has to have sufficient volunteers.                                                                     
Number 0352                                                                                                                     
VIRGINIA  ESPENSHADE,  Director,   Kenai  Peninsula  Youth  Court                                                               
(KPYC), said that HB 303 is  a great bill and she appreciates the                                                               
committee's  support  of   it.    She  relayed   that  the  Urban                                                               
Institute's  study was  specific  to the  Anchorage Youth  Court;                                                               
however, many  of the  15-17 youth courts  in Alaska  are modeled                                                               
after  the  Anchorage  Youth  Court.     She  remarked  that  the                                                               
Anchorage  Youth  Court is  unique  in  the  country in  that  it                                                               
accepts "not guilty" pleas.  She  urged the committee to read the                                                               
Urban Institute's  study, which  compares the recidivism  rate of                                                               
youth courts  with that of  the regular court system  for similar                                                               
MS. ESPENSHADE predicted  that if youth courts  had more funding,                                                               
it would directly  impact the timeliness with which  cases can be                                                               
addressed,  and  would  allow   youth  courts  to  become  better                                                               
equipped to follow up and  monitor sentence compliance.  She said                                                               
that one  of the main  theories behind  youth courts is  a quick,                                                               
timely, appropriate, peer-based response.   She surmised that all                                                               
youth courts  are being "taxed  to the limit,"  particularly with                                                               
the addition  of "minor  consuming alcohol"  cases.   She relayed                                                               
that the  Kenai Peninsula Youth  Court runs two programs,  one in                                                               
Homer and one in Kenai, and  offered that two of the great things                                                               
about all youth courts is  that they are community-based and that                                                               
the theory behind them appears to work in any kind of community.                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE said she appreciates  Ms. Espenshade's hard work on                                                               
behalf of the KPYC and thanked her for her testimony.                                                                           
Number 0491                                                                                                                     
WESTON   EILER,   Chair,   Alaska  Youth   Court   Sustainability                                                               
Coalition, thanked  the committee  for hearing and  supporting HB
303, and said he is a "member"  of the Juneau Youth Court and has                                                               
been so for  the past three years.   He then went on  to say that                                                               
youth courts  also provide benefits  to youth in general.   There                                                               
are approximately  1,000 youth court advocates  around Alaska, in                                                               
17  different  youth  courts "from  Ketchikan  to  Kotzebue,"  he                                                               
added.     Youth  courts,  in   addition  to  being   a  positive                                                               
alternative  to  the  juvenile justice  system,  allow  youth  an                                                               
opportunity  to help  their  peers, get  training  in the  "basic                                                               
fundamentals  of   law  in  civil   society"  and   in  courtroom                                                               
procedure, and receive mentoring by  attorneys and judges.  Youth                                                               
courts empower youth to make a difference in their communities.                                                                 
CHAIR McGUIRE thanked Mr. Eiler for his work with youth courts.                                                                 
Number 0621                                                                                                                     
DOUG  WOOLIVER,  Administrative Attorney,  Administrative  Staff,                                                               
Office  of  the  Administrative  Director,  Alaska  Court  System                                                               
(ACS),  said that  the ACS  supports HB  303 and  the concept  of                                                               
youth courts.   The  ACS is  a big advocate  of youth  courts and                                                               
sees  a  lot of  their  benefits,  he  added, noting  that  Chief                                                               
Justice Dana  Fabe mentioned  youth courts in  her "State  of the                                                               
Judiciary" address to the legislature.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  whether  youth  courts would  benefit                                                               
from more  funding.  He  said that he would  like to see  the ACS                                                               
request more funding for that purpose.                                                                                          
MR.  WOOLIVER explained  that aside  from providing  youth courts                                                               
with  courtrooms   and  mentors,   the  ACS  is   not  officially                                                               
affiliated with  youth courts.   He suggested that the  best ones                                                               
to answer the  question of whether more funding  would be helpful                                                               
would  be the  youth  courts themselves,  since  they knew  their                                                               
backlog better than he.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  who  submits the  budget request  for                                                               
youth courts.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE OGG said  that youth courts are  funded by federal                                                               
grants and various nonprofit organizations.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked what entity would  be responsible                                                               
for seeing that youth courts get  the funding provided by HB 303,                                                               
should it pass.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE   OGG  suggested   that  those   funds  would   be                                                               
distributed by the "granting  agencies" that currently distribute                                                               
funds for youth courts.                                                                                                         
CHAIR McGUIRE posited  that that aspect of  the legislation would                                                               
be addressed in the House Finance Committee.                                                                                    
Number 0839                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA moved to report  HB 303 out of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal  zero                                                               
note.   There being no  objection, HB  303 was reported  from the                                                               
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects