Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/09/2004 01:44 PM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 451                                                                                                            
     An Act relating to therapeutic courts; and providing                                                                       
     for an effective date.                                                                                                     
DOUG WOOLIVER,  ALASKA COURT  SYSTEM, ANCHORAGE,  stated that                                                                   
HB  451 would  extend  the  termination  date for  two  pilot                                                                   
therapeutic  court programs  until after  a planned  study of                                                                   
the  Courts   had  been   completed  and   reviewed   by  the                                                                   
Legislature.    The  bill  removes a  sunset  clause  to  the                                                                   
Anchorage  Superior Court  judge position  that was  added to                                                                   
administer one of the therapeutic courts.                                                                                       
In 2001,  the Legislature  passed HB  172, which  established                                                                   
felony-level  Therapeutic  Courts  in Anchorage  and  Bethel.                                                                   
Each Court  was set up  as a pilot  program scheduled  to run                                                                   
for three  years.   The Anchorage Court  admits those  with a                                                                   
felony  conviction  for driving  under  the  influence of  an                                                                   
alcoholic beverage, inhalant,  or controlled substance (DUI).                                                                   
The Bethel Court admits those  convicted of either felony DUI                                                                   
or certain felony drug offenses.   The findings section of HB
172 explains the purpose of the Courts:                                                                                         
     The   purposes  of   Therapeutic   courts  are   lasting                                                                   
     sobriety  of  offenders,   protection  of  society  from                                                                   
     alcohol-related  and drug-related crime,  prompt payment                                                                   
     of   restitution  to   victims   of  crimes,   effective                                                                   
     interaction   and  use   of  resources  among   criminal                                                                   
     justice   and   community    agencies,   and   long-term                                                                   
     reduction  of  costs  relating  to  arrest,  trial,  and                                                                   
Mr.  Wooliver   stated  that   in  order  to   determine  the                                                                   
effectiveness  of  the  Courts,   the  Judicial  Council  was                                                                   
charged  with  evaluating them  and  publishing  a study  for                                                                   
legislative review.   Unfortunately,  both the Anchorage  and                                                                   
Bethel programs sunset before  the evaluation is scheduled to                                                                   
be complete  and because  the  report is to  be published  in                                                                   
July, before  the Legislature  has an  opportunity to  review                                                                   
  the evaluation.  If  the Legislature looks at the  evaluation                                                                 
  study and  decides  that  the programs  should  continue,  it                                                                 
  would be too  late and  both programs would  have ended  more                                                                 
  than a year earlier.   In order to  fix that problem, HB  451                                                                 
  would extend the termination date of the pilot  program until                                                                 
  after the Legislature  has had an  opportunity to review  the                                                                 
  HB 451  removes  a  sunset  clause  from HB  172  that  would                                                                 
  terminate the Anchorage  Superior Court judge position  added                                                                 
  by the bill.  The new judge was necessary not only  to do the                                                                 
  work of the  Therapeutic Court  but also  to help absorb  the                                                                 
  growing felony  caseload  in Anchorage.   The  sunset  clause                                                                 
  would  take  effect  this   summer  at  the  same  time   the                                                                 
  Therapeutic Court  program was  scheduled to end.   Not  only                                                                 
  will that mean the end of the felony Therapeutic  Court, also                                                                 
  mean that  Anchorage  will  have  one less  judge  for  other                                                                 
  Superior  Court  work.    The  Therapeutic  Court   judge  in                                                                 
  Anchorage spends most of  her time on general Superior  Court                                                                 
  work unrelated to therapeutic  court cases.  If the  Judicial                                                                 
  System looses  the  judicial  position,  it will  impact  all                                                                 
  Superior Court cases in Anchorage.                                                                                            
  Mr. Wooliver  concluded that  the  loss of  a Superior  Court                                                                 
  judge in Anchorage  would return the  State to the number  of                                                                 
  judges initially established  in 1984.  Since that time,  the                                                                 
  felony  caseload in  Anchorage  has  increased  approximately                                                                 
  100%.    Alaska  cannot  afford  to  lose  a  Superior  Court                                                                 
  position in Anchorage  and to return  to a level of  judicial                                                                 
  coverage that was appropriate 20 years ago.                                                                                   
  JUDGE STEPHANIE  JOANNIDES, (TESTIFIED  VIA TELECONFERENCE),                                                                  
  ALASKA COURT SYSTEM,  ANCHORAGE, voiced her frustration  with                                                                 
  sentencing more and  more people for  longer periods of  time                                                                 
  when they continue to re-offend.  She claimed that  the State                                                                 
  can no  longer afford to  keep doing  that both  economically                                                                 
  and from a  public safety perspective.   The State must  look                                                                 
  at new ways of doing business.  Because of that  frustration,                                                                 
  judges,  courts  and   lawyers  have  the  realization   that                                                                 
  something must be done about the problem.                                                                                     
  The  Drug Court  model  was  first  used in  Florida  in  the                                                                 
  1980's.   Since then, the  original model  was so  successful                                                                 
  that now  there  are over  1,000 across  the country.    Five                                                                 
  years ago,  there  were only  about 400  in operation.    She                                                                 
  reiterated that  currently, there are  over 1,000 drug  court                                                                 
  models and  that  is the  model  the Anchorage  Court  system                                                                 
  Judge Joannides  emphasized  the success  rate  of people  in                                                                 
  that program.  There are  mothers that are having "clean  and                                                                 
  sober" babies  that might  have otherwise  had Fetal  Alcohol                                                                 
Syndrome (FAS), parents learning  how to better interact with                                                                   
their children and offenders are  staying clean and sober for                                                                   
longer periods of  time.  She requested that  members come to                                                                   
observe  the  Court  in  Anchorage   to  better  witness  the                                                                   
strengths of the program.                                                                                                       
JUDGE  LEONARD   DEVANEY,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),                                                                   
ALASKA COURT SYSTEM, BETHEL, echoed  sentiments made by Judge                                                                   
Joannides and stated that the  Therapeutic Court in Bethel is                                                                   
having a great success rate.   He advised that nearly 100% of                                                                   
the crimes in  that area are alcohol related  and the results                                                                   
of the Court has been very good.                                                                                                
Judge Devaney  noted that the  Bethel Court has only  been in                                                                   
existence for about 18 months.   He pointed out that they are                                                                   
using $25  dollars per day for  treatment as compared  to the                                                                   
$100  dollars per  day incarceration  costs.   The Courts  in                                                                   
Bethel take many different substance abuse crime clients.                                                                       
Judge Devaney offered to answer questions of the Committee.                                                                     
Co-Chair Harris inquired about  the recidivism rate and asked                                                                   
if there had been a "dramatic" drop in that number.                                                                             
Judge  Joannides  replied  that  it  would  be  premature  to                                                                   
provide those statistics.  Almost  2/3 of people in her court                                                                   
were re-offenders;  in other  words, had  a prior felony  and                                                                   
then quickly  reoffended.  She  stressed that they  have seen                                                                   
success  in that  population  and on  a  national level,  the                                                                   
success  has  been promising.    She  understood that  it  is                                                                   
difficult  to convince  members  without  the "hard"  numbers                                                                   
available but reiterated  that it is early in  the program to                                                                   
determine.  The people in that  program could be serving from                                                                   
12 to 18  months and those  people are just beginning  to get                                                                   
back into their community.  She  pointed out that many people                                                                   
in  the  program  could  not have  made  it  eighteen  months                                                                   
without picking  up another felony  DUI and that  information                                                                   
is promising.                                                                                                                   
Judge  Devaney reiterated  that  the Bethel  program  started                                                                   
later and  stated that only  seven people had  graduated from                                                                   
the program  to date.   He pointed out  that they  would need                                                                   
another year or two to determine  the recidivism rate.  There                                                                   
is  success  being  seen  but  the  number  is  difficult  to                                                                   
quantify at this point.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Harris  inquired about  using an "implant"  or other                                                                   
device.   Judge  Joannides responded  that  Anchorage is  not                                                                   
using any type of implant with  the offenders in the program.                                                                   
They do  use other tools  to monitor  sobriety.  Some  of the                                                                   
clients  are  on naltrexone  but  that  is not  required  for                                                                   
everyone  in  the  program.    Some  are  monitored  using  a                                                                   
sobritor  attachment to  test them  for alcohol  consumption.                                                                   
  She added  that these  people are  tested 1-5  times a  week,                                                                 
  with a minimum of 3.                                                                                                          
  Judge Devaney noted  that Bethel does  use naltrexone if  the                                                                 
  doctor prescribes  it and it  is used for  six months.   They                                                                 
  take it  at  treatment  five days  a  week  and then  on  the                                                                 
  weekends, the  participants  come in  for breath  tests.   In                                                                 
  Bethel,  there   is   no  electronic   monitoring,   as   the                                                                 
  infrastructure in Bethel  does not allow  for the use of  the                                                                 
  Representative Fate  inquired  if preliminary  data had  been                                                                 
  collected.   Mr.  Wooliver responded  that it  is  and is  an                                                                 
  important  aspect of  HB  172,  as a  direction  to  Judicial                                                                 
  Council to  undertake a  long-term study  and journaling  the                                                                 
  Representative  Foster  MOVED   to  report  HB  451   out  of                                                                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and   with  the                                                                 
  attached fiscal notes.   There being NO OBJECTION, it  was so                                                                 
  HB 451  was  reported  out  of Committee  with  a  "do  pass"                                                                 
  recommendation  and with  a new  fiscal  note by  the  Alaska                                                                 
  Court  System,   zero   note   #1  by   the   Department   of                                                                 
  Administration,   zero  note   #2   by  the   Department   of                                                                 
  Corrections,  zero note  #3 by  the  Department of  Health  &                                                                 
 Social Services and zero note #4 by the Department of Law.                                                                     

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