Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/28/1994 01:37 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
JUD - 3/28/94 CHAIRMAN ROBIN TAYLOR called the Judiciary Committee meeting to order at 1:37 p.m. He brought CSHB 195(FIN) (AUTHORIZING YOUTH COURTS) before the committee as the first order of business. PAULA TERREL, staff to Representative Joe Sitton who is prime sponsor of HB 195, explained the legislation is based on a Youth Court Program, the only one in Alaska. It is a diversion program that has had a good success rate in Anchorage. Minors who have committed an offense, or allegedly committed a offense, can decide to go into this diversion program if the juvenile intake of the Department of Health & Social Services and their parents agree. HB 195 will set up in statute the authority for youth court programs to take place. It will also set up a grant program under DCRA which will allow communities, whether urban or rural, to apply for a $5,000 one time only grant that would have to be matched by each nonprofit or community as seed money to start up the program. She noted the bill is set up so that it would allow for maximum flexibility depending on how the communities want to handle it. Ms. Terrel pointed out that recidivism rate is very low in the Anchorage program. Number 083 SENATOR HALFORD said the bill provides that the record be sealed, but he wondered if the bill provides access to the record of disposition of a case to the victim of the offense, essentially for a civil case, because the victim may want to sue the offender and the parents for damages. He added that he would be violently opposed to anything that weakens that right more than it already is. JOHN ELY, an Anchorage lawyer and President of Anchorage Youth Court testifying from Anchorage, said one the main things the Anchorage Youth Court tries to teach the defendant is the cost of their crime. Restitution is one of the main emphases that they give out, along with community service. Any property damage that's done is almost always compensated for through restitution. However, there is difficulty in allowing civil proceedings to flow from juvenile proceedings because of a strict confidentiality involved in all juvenile proceedings. In youth court, there is one added difficulty to allowing the information to go, and that is that no actual conviction will show on the juvenile's record after completing the youth court diversion program sentencing if they are found guilty in youth court. Number 612 SENATOR HALFORD said he has no interest in a civil follow-up if, in fact, there is restitution, but if the restitution isn't paid, then we've just established a mechanism to protect the juvenile from having to pay the bill for what he did. MR. ELY answered that as it stands now, it would still be very difficult to use the juvenile criminal record in a civil proceeding. SENATOR HALFORD noted that legislation has passed the Senate that will make changes to juvenile waivers and juvenile information. SENATOR TAYLOR said that he would have staff make sure that the provisions incorporated within the current SB 54 are in balance with the legislation before the committee. SENATOR HALFORD said that with that exception, he has no problem with the legislation. Number 186 SENATOR DONLEY asked who establishes guidelines that the prosecutors follow for youth court. MR. ELY replied that they prosecute under both state and municipal laws, depending on the offense, the arresting officer's citing of the offense, etc. The guidelines for prosecution are established by the youth court bars themselves and they are not extremely formal. The prosecutors are students themselves, and there are legal advisors to the youth court. SENATOR DONLEY related that concern had been expressed to him by several police officers that after arrests had been made, the officers weren't even requested to come in and testify, and that nothing was done to the offenders. MR. ELY said he was surprised, and he would like to talk to Senator Donley further about the instances because there may be some misunderstandings. He added that they work as closely with law enforcement as they can. Number 260 SENATOR DONLEY also spoke to the public perception that a lot of these juveniles are repeat offenders, that they commit these crimes over and over again before they are formally adjudicated as delinquents, and even that system is not very effective as far as the punishment being given. MR. ELY clarified that the youth court only deals with first time offenders. Number 325 There being no further testimony on HB 195, SENATOR TAYLOR stated the bill would be held in committee for further consideration.