Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/05/2001 01:38 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB 23-EXTEND TERMINATION DATE FOR BD OF PAROLE                                                                    
MR.  LARRY JONES,  Executive  Director, Board  of  Parole, said  the                                                            
board acts  under the sunset rule  for boards and commissions.   The                                                            
Board of  Parole is  up for reinstatement  June 30,  2001 and  SB 23                                                            
extends the date to 2006.   The extension is usually three years but                                                            
SB 23 allows for  a five year extension.  There is  a constitutional                                                            
mandate in  Alaska for a  parole system and  the parole board  meets                                                            
that constitutional  mandate.   The board is  autonomous, it  is not                                                            
officially  part of the Department  of Corrections  (DOC) but  it is                                                            
integrated into DOC.                                                                                                            
MR. JONES  said  the board  consists of  five members.   Each  board                                                            
member is appointed for  five years.  The appointments are staggered                                                            
with some members having served for many years.                                                                                 
MR. JONES said  the board meets for  face-to-face hearings  and also                                                            
face-to-face  parole hearings.   The board  feels strongly  that the                                                            
face-to-face,  eye contact, body language  part of the hearings  are                                                            
very important for proper decision-making.                                                                                      
MR. JONES commented  that the board  is please with their  decision-                                                            
making, with statistics  showing that less than five  percent of the                                                            
discretionary  parolees  have  revocations  and  these  are  usually                                                            
technical revocations.   The greatest role of the board, in terms of                                                            
time  consumption,  is  revocation  hearings  - 95  percent  of  the                                                            
revocation  hearings are for mandatory  parolees.  Mandatory  parole                                                            
is  when a  prisoner  has served  his  time  and is  being  released                                                            
without consideration by the parole board.                                                                                      
MR. JONES noted that public  safety is the primary consideration for                                                            
a  release.   Extension  is also  a considerable  factor  in  inmate                                                            
population  control.   It costs  $100.00 a  day for  an inmate  in a                                                            
"hard bed" (prison),  and less than $10.00 a day for  being released                                                            
to community  corrections  supervision  on  the street.   The  state                                                            
saves  $8 to  $10 million  dollars  by  releasing prisoners  to  the                                                            
street.  The parole board budget is less than $500,000.                                                                         
Number 352                                                                                                                      
SENATOR DONLEY requested  copies of the legislative budget and audit                                                            
report  for the  board of  parole  and said  there should  not be  a                                                            
sunset bill until  the audit has been released and  is available for                                                            
public comment.                                                                                                                 
Number 434                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  COWDERY  asked  for  the  location   of  the  parole  board                                                            
MR. JONES responded that  there are hearings at every prison site in                                                            
the state.  There  is a general policy that if there  are fewer than                                                            
five people up for a hearing,  the board will not go to that prison.                                                            
For  equity   though,   if  there   is  an   in-person  hearing,   a                                                            
teleconference can be used  to hear from other prisoners.  There are                                                            
even hearings at the contracted private facility in Arizona.                                                                    
SENATOR COWDERY  asked what the average  pay is for a board  member.                                                            
MR. JONES answered  that the governor  establishes compensation  for                                                            
the board.   The  rate is $150  a day and  $75 for  half a day  when                                                            
conducting  business  for  the board.    Yearly  pay is  $15,000  to                                                            
$30,000,  depending on the  amount of time  a member puts in.   This                                                            
figure has not been changed since 1984.                                                                                         
SENATOR COWDERY asked if this amount is adequate.                                                                               
MR. JONES  replied that  what was  equitable in  1984 does not  meet                                                            
inflation  and  other factors  today.    The  audit speaks  to  this                                                            
Number 570                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if a  five-member  board is  adequate for  a                                                            
MR. JONES  responded  that five  members are  adequate.   This  is a                                                            
working board,  traveling two full weeks a month.   Having more than                                                            
five members could make the decision process more complex.                                                                      
Number 610                                                                                                                      
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said the Legislative Budget and  Audit Committee                                                            
(LB&A) reviewed  the parole  board audit in  its last meeting.   The                                                            
audit is now  with the Department  of Corrections for their  review.                                                            
The final audit will be out at the next LB&A meeting.                                                                           
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked when that would be.                                                                                       
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said that has  not been determined yet.   It may                                                            
depend  on  whether the  Administration  has  any  revised  program-                                                            
legislative (RPL) for the committee.                                                                                            
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked Mr. Jones how long he has been  on the parole                                                            
MR. JONES said he has been on the board for five years.                                                                         
Number 690                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked if there has been any political  pressure put                                                            
on the board to expedite people out of prison.                                                                                  
MR. JONES replied  no.  The parole  board is a quasi-judicial  board                                                            
and it does not receive this type of pressure.                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR  asked about  the  recidivism rate.    What is  the                                                            
percentage mandated by law?                                                                                                     
MR. JONES  said  of all  the revocation  hearings  the board  holds,                                                            
about  four  percent   are  for  people  who  are  allowed   out  on                                                            
discretionary parole.   96 percent of revocations are for people who                                                            
are released because their sentence was over.                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN TYALOR  asked about people  who have done a certain  amount                                                            
of time and are then released on mandatory probation.                                                                           
MR. JONES replied  that after a revocation  hearing, the  board sets                                                            
conditions  for  all mandatory  parolees  prior  to  their  release.                                                            
There are  conditions of  parole the  parolee has  to abide by.   If                                                            
they fail to abide by the  conditions, parole is revoked.  The board                                                            
can then decide to put  them back in prison, let them out, or revoke                                                            
a portion of the time.                                                                                                          
Number 800                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR  asked  if  the  violations   of  parole  are  just                                                            
technical violations?                                                                                                           
MR. JONES  said  the vast  majority of  the offenses  are  technical                                                            
violations.   If  the person  commits a  new criminal  offense,  the                                                            
board does  not see them  until there is a  resolution in the  court                                                            
system for the new offense.   The parolee then goes into "limbo," in                                                            
terms of the board  seeing them, until the court resolves  what will                                                            
happen.  Sometimes the  parolee will spend a lot more time in prison                                                            
for the new crime than the board has time to control them.                                                                      
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked if the parolee would be on  the street during                                                            
this "limbo" time.                                                                                                              
MR. JONES said no, but  in some cases they could be bailed out.  The                                                            
board is notified  of the offense  and depending on the crime,  such                                                            
as rape,  the board is very  likely to keep  them in prison  so they                                                            
cannot be released on bail.                                                                                                     
MR. JONES  gave the committee  copies of  the parole board's  annual                                                            
report and said the report is also on the board's web page.                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said SB  23 would be held  until the committee  can                                                            
see the budget and audit report.                                                                                                

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