Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/02/1995 08:00 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 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.                                                                

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