Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/23/1994 02:41 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR TAYLOR introduced SB 292 (INTERSTATE TRANSFERS OF INMATES) ) as the next order of business. DAVID SKIDMORE, staff to prime sponsor of the legislation Senator Steve Frank, related that in the past the Department of Corrections has considered transferring inmates out of state. Currently, the department faces severe overcrowding pressures. Alaska statutes provide two different standards that must be met before inmates may be transferred out of state. The first standard in AS 33.30.061(b) provides that the department "may transfer inmates out of state if rehabilitation or treatment of the inmate will not be impaired. The second standard in AS 33.36.010 provides that the department may not transfer inmates out of state if rehabilitation or treatment of the inmate will be better facilitated in Alaska. SB 292 would resolve the two conflicting standards by deleting the second standard and establishing the first standard as the sole test which would have to be met. Mr. Skidmore noted there is no advocacy or funding association with SB 292; it is simply clarifying statute to give the commissioner of corrections this tool in dealing with overcrowding. Number 564 SENATOR LITTLE asked what effect this would have on the Cleary Settlement if the facilities out of state don't have the same provisions that Alaska has. Number 570 MICHAEL STARK, Counsel to the Department of Corrections, pointed out that under AS 33.30.031, the Department of Corrections has the authority to transfer prisoners out of state. There is also an independent law, which is known as the Interstate Corrections Compact and is found in AS 33.36.010, which provides an independent basis for transferring prisoners out of state. Typically, the Interstate Corrections Compact is used for transferring inmates from a state facility to another state's correctional system. However, there are other correctional systems that are not state systems, and AS 33.30.031 is broader authority for transferring prisoners whenever there are not adequate state facilities. TAPE 94-23, SIDE B Number 558 Mr. Stark said the standard that is found in the Interstate Corrections Compact is a more difficult standard to meet and it is subject to legal challenge. The point of the bill is that there should only be one standard, and it makes no sense to have a different standard just because the possible vehicle for transferring them might be the Interstate Compact. Mr. Stark pointed out that the statutes provide that wherever they send inmates there has got to be a similar degree of care provided. The terms of the Cleary Settlement, by their own terms, are restricted to inmates confined in the state in state-run facilities. The specific provisions in that settlement don't apply to inmates who are outside the state, however, they must be provided a similar degree of care. Number 543 SENATOR TAYLOR commented that, basically, this is just housekeeping language. MR. STARK agreed and said the inmates rights are still protected by existing law in 33.30.061. Number 527 SENATOR DONLEY asked if the people who work in corrections have taken a position on the bill. MR. STARK answered that he didn't know, but, to his knowledge, right now there is no plan for the wholesale transfer of prisoners out of state. However, there are a number of crime bills before the Legislature and the correctional system is overcrowded. That resource to transfer them out exists right now under existing law and this would simply clarify the standard. SENATOR DONLEY asked which collective bargaining unit represents the people working in corrections. DIANE SCHENKER, Special Assistant, Department of Corrections, answered that they are represented by ASEA and APEA. Both of those unions have opposed out-of-state transfers in the past, but the department has not been contacted by its employees or either of the unions on SB 292. Number 492 SENATOR LITTLE pointed out that the whole upper floor in the Wildwood Prison Facility is empty and could be staffed and utilized. She asked if there is any movement in the Legislature to fund that facility fully in order to utilize that space. MS. SCHENKER answered that there wasn't at this point. The Governor has requested funding and the department is pursuing every avenue to get funding to open instate beds. Also, the Governor's amended budget request has also requested money to increase soft bed facilities for the misdemeanant population. There is statutory authority for the department to contract for any type of bed in or out of state, but they are not necessarily available. SENATOR LITTLE stated that she is not willing at this time to fix a statute that has do with sending prisoners outside of the state when there is an existing facility like Wildwood that is not being fully utilized. Number 425 There was no motion to move SB 292 out of committee.