Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/02/1995 08:00 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HSTA - 02/02/95 HB 47 - UNLAWFUL EVASIONS CLASS A MISDEMEANOR Number 658 CHAIR JAMES called for Representative Brown to come up and testify on HB 47, as she was the sponsor. REPRESENTATIVE KAY BROWN, SPONSOR OF HB 47, said she introduced this bill in response to concerns about halfway houses in her district in downtown Anchorage. She said in her district, they had the majority of these types of facilities for the entire state concentrated in a rather small area. She said a few instances had occurred that had raised concerns as to whether the penalty was harsh enough to deter people from walking away from these facilities. She said that right now we have the crime of unlawful evasion which has two degrees. She said the higher degree applies to people serving for a felony offense. The lower degree, which carries a Class B misdemeanor classification, is for the people who are serving time for a misdemeanor offense. She said she had been told that a Class B misdemeanor charge for unlawful evasion in the second degree is not considered a serious enough offense for law enforcement to want to prosecute on that basis. She stated that typically, even if a conviction was gotten, there would probably not be any jail time assigned, as it is considered the lowest of offenses. She said this bill would combine the two degrees of unlawful evasion into a single crime of unlawful evasion, carrying the Class A misdemeanor, which could carry a penalty of up to a year's assigned jail time. She further stated there were two amendments to HB 47. She said amendment 1 would correct a drafting omission in the concealed weapons permit law. Under the current statute, AS 18.65.705(4), the citation is made to AS 11.56.350, which is the statute for unlawful evasion in the second degree, the Class B misdemeanor, but not to 11.56.340, which is unlawful evasion in the first degree. She said HB 47 would include unlawful evasion as one of the misdemeanor crimes that would cause ineligibility for a concealed weapon permit. People convicted for this offense would not be able to get a concealed weapon permit for five years. She said amendment two would be included in page 2, line 17, and would add the crime of unlawful evasion to the list of crimes for which there is a mandatory minimum sentence. She said the mandatory minimum for unlawful evasion, Class A misdemeanor, would be 180 days of jail time. She said she had been told that even if there was a separate penalty for Class A misdemeanor, it still wouldn't be as much of a deterrent as HB 47 to know that there is the possibility of an automatic sentence. She said that with HB 47, law enforcement would still have to go to court and get a conviction, but that at least it would be an automatic sentence of 180 days. She said this bill would make the law of the state of Alaska the same as the law of the municipality of Anchorage. She said this amendment was made at the request of some citizens of Anchorage. She said in summary, there should be stronger deterrents to prevent people from walking away from halfway houses. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN further noted that the fiscal notes on HB 47 were zero fiscal notes. GERALD W. BAILEY, DIRECTOR OF GASTINEAU HUMAN SERVICES, said he would urge the committee to support and pass HB 47. He said the halfway house in Juneau contained both the state halfway house and also the city misdemeanor jail facility. He said they had more problems with their misdemeanor prisoners than they did with their state felony prisoners. He said over the past few years, they had had five or six walkaways. He said that misdemeanors don't have as long of a sentence to start with and so they see that much of a deterrent to walking away from the facility. He said that prosecutors were very reluctant to prosecute for unlawful evasion. He said his point was that misdemeanors do not see the threat of sanctions for walking away and it would be a bigger deterrent if they did know that they would be prosecuted and that there was a mandatory sentence. Number 865 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if the people primarily walking away were misdemeanors or felons. MR. BAILEY stated they were primarily felons. He said they had had two state probationer felons who had walked away. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if he was satisfied with the classification of prisoners that he was receiving at his facility. MR. BAILEY replied that he was. He said he knew that there was some concern with the higher risk offenders that were being assigned to halfway houses, but the reality was that the felons assigned to them were much less of a behavior problem for them because they had more to lose. He said they were aware of this and knew the difference between the halfway house and the prison. He said they would rather be in the halfway house. Thus, they were, in general, more cooperative. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if his facility had problems with overpopulation. MR. BAILEY said that because of the way the contracts were written, they didn't have a population problem with the state inmates, but they sometimes reached capacity prisoners from the city. He said they tried to schedule the prisoners time to avoid this problem. TAPE 95-7, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked what type of misdemeanor inmates they had in these facilities. What type of crimes were they committing? MR. BAILEY said it could be basically anything from domestic violence to assaults. He said the very violent offenders were not usually assigned to the halfway house. Number 025 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked whose responsibility it was to retrieve inmates who had walked away from the facility. MR. BAILEY said they work with the Juneau Police Department and the prosecutor, but they don't restrain inmates trying to walk away. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if a prisoner who had walked away was in for domestic violence, if they notified the victim. MR. BAILEY replied that in many cases they did not know who the victim was. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked what the procedure was for dealing with a prisoner who had walked away after they were caught. MR. BAILEY replied they do not go back to the halfway house, but are sent to the Lemon Creek prison. Number 065 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER stated the bill would move the Class B misdemeanor up to a Class A misdemeanor. He asked if the existing penalty for violation of the Class A misdemeanor was a mandatory 180-day sentence. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN stated the existing penalty was the same as the penalties for Class A misdemeanors, in general. She said this could be a maximum of up to one year in jail and a possible fine of $5,000. The current Class B misdemeanor was up to 90 days in jail and up to a possible fine of $1,000. She said there was not enough deterrent for the Class B misdemeanor. CHAIR JAMES announced that the teleconference was ready. She asked if Katherine Bogs Gray was on the line. KATHERINE BOGS GRAY, VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS, ALLVEST, INC., announced by teleconference that she supervised that operation of the state's four largest community residential centers. She said these centers contained both felons and misdemeanor offenders. She said she strongly believed that in order for these programs to be effective and for the communities in which these facilities are located to support them, there must be stronger sanctions for a prisoner who walks away. She said the Department of Corrections considered someone a walk away if they left either the facility or their place of assigned employment. She said that enforcement of a standard was imperative to the effective control of this type of facility. She said that during fiscal year 1992, there were 49 walk away prisoners from Allvest Inc., out of 45,351 inmates. In 1993, there were 23 out of over 63,000 inmates. In 1994, there were 68 out of 89,531 inmates. She said that for the first half of this year, there were 38 walk away prisoners out of 59,633 inmates. These represent both misdemeanor and felony offenders. She said it had been her experience that misdemeanors were more likely to walk away from these facilities than felons. She said these programs were based on the premise that privileges are awarded for responsible behavior and inmates taking responsibility for their actions. She said that for these programs to be truly effective, there must be appropriate sanctions for walking away. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was anyone else in Anchorage who wanted to testify. There was no one else at that time. She asked if anyone wanted to make a motion regarding amendment #1. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS moved to adopt amendment number 1. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any discussion regarding amendment number 1. Number 155 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER wanted to remind the committee that this was the amendment which would prevent an individual who had violated the unlawful evasion law from obtaining or retaining a concealed carry permit. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any objection to the passage of amendment number 1. Hearing, the amendment passed. She asked if anyone wanted to move to adopt amendment number 2. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said that he would move to adopt amendment number 2. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any discussion regarding amendment number 2. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said that he would object to amendment number 2. He said he had to wonder about the proportionate reality of sentencing someone to a mandatory 180 days that might have only been in the facility originally for a lesser amount, such as 72 hours. He said that right now, the law provides the option of sentencing an individual up to 90 days for a misdemeanor who walks away. He said he would suspect that the misdemeanors who walk away are the newer prisoners who do not yet have an appreciation for the system, or people who regardless of the deterrent, just don't get the message anyway. He said that today one of the most serious problems of correctional facilities was overcrowding. He was concerned that an analysis of the benefits would show that they would be overshadowed by the problem of prison overcrowding. He said he just could not support this amendment. Number 200 REPRESENTATIVE BROWN stated that she shared some of those same thoughts that Representative Porter expressed. She said she would have to ask how these types of facilities fit into our overall prison management system. She said she represented an area of downtown Anchorage where there was an enormous concentration of these types of facilities. She said the people in this area are reaching the level of tolerance, and there was an increasing level of concern among people that she represented. She said she felt that if you could give some type of tool to the people who were running these facilities, that this was where this would have the most value of a deterrent. She said where she lived, people were just not feeling safe anymore. She said we just needed to find the right balance of where these facilities fit into our overall corrections system, because they do alleviate some of the prison overcrowding. She said she would leave it to the discretion of the committee to decide where that balance needed to be. CHAIR JAMES asked if this amendment would alter the zero fiscal note of this bill. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said she did not know if this would raise the level of prosecution to warrant a new fiscal note, but it was meant to be more of a deterrent and a management tool for the manager of the facility. She thought that we might defer this question to the Department of Law as they had developed the fiscal note. CHAIR JAMES asked if she was saying that even if there was a mandatory sentence, and that if prosecutors still did not prosecute, then this amendment would have very little fiscal impact. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN thought that with this scenario, they would just send the prisoner to prison to finish their original sentence. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was not a difference in price between housing prisoners in prison verses the halfway house. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN agreed, saying that the average price of housing prisoners in prison amounted to about $110.00 per day, whereas the average cost of housing them in a halfway house was between $50 and $60 a day. She said where an extra cost might come in was when you had a prisoner who had an extra 180 days added to his sentence because he had walked away. She said he was told that morning, that that would probably be a consecutive sentence. She said a judge might have the discretion to make it a concurrent sentence. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER disagreed, saying he thought that it would probably have to be a consecutive sentence, and so cost more. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she thought that even if it was concurrent, they would still be required to go to prison and that would still be a deterrent. REPRESENTATIVE BROWN agreed. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON emphasized that this was meant to be a tool to help deter walkaways, and a help to more effectively manage the facility. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said his problem with this was that because of the lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting these offenses, all that a halfway house could say was that it was a chance they could be sent to jail for 180 days. He said they could already say there was a chance they would be sent to jail for 90 days. He said he thought that it was inappropriate to create a law that would not be enforced. He said this message gets out to the prisoners, and that was worse than not having the law in the first place. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if this would not have been a remedy to a situation that had occurred in Anchorage, where an escapee got a car and killed someone. She thought this might have been a deterrent to them escaping in the first place. CHAIR JAMES announced that amendment number 2 was on the floor for a vote. She asked if there was any objection. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER objected. CHAIR JAMES asked for a roll-call vote. Representative Ogan voted no, Representative Ivan voted no, Representative Porter voted no, Representative Robinson voted yes, Representative Willis voted yes, Chair James voted no. The vote was four to two in opposition to this amendment. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if they should consult with the Department of Law to try and come up with a lower mandatory sentence time. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he would certainly consider any alternative solution to crime problems, either here or in the Judiciary committee. He said the problem though was that the most frequent misdemeanor visitor to the facility would be charged with Driving Under the Influence, who usually have the lowest amount of recidivism. He said this showed that the current system was working. He said though that unfortunately now, because of prison overcrowding, these prisoners have to wait to serve their sentence. He said this ruins the deterrent effect and the more of these types of laws that we enact, the worse the situation is getting. Number 339 REPRESENTATIVE BROWN said she was comfortable with the committee's decision on this amendment. She said she had brought it forward at the request of the halfway house in Anchorage, but had some reservations herself. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON requested that the bill be passed with individual recommendations. CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any objection. Hearing none, HB 47 was passed.