Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

02/24/2015 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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Moved HB 56 Out of Committee
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         HB 22-PROBATION AND PAROLE OFFICERS' CASELOADS                                                                     
8:13:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  that the final order of  business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL  NO.  22,  "An  Act  establishing  a  maximum  caseload  for                                                               
probation and parole officers."                                                                                                 
8:13:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CHRIS TUCK,  Alaska State  Legislature, as  prime                                                               
sponsor,  presented  HB  22.     He  paraphrased  the  first  two                                                               
paragraphs  of  the  sponsor statement,  which  read  as  follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     In  Alaska, two-thirds  of offenders  return to  prison                                                                    
     within  three years.  Legislators and  communities have                                                                    
     been   dedicated  to   reducing   the   high  rate   of                                                                    
     recidivism, but  we have missed the  important piece of                                                                    
     supporting  our   probation  officers.   Probation  and                                                                    
     parole  officers provide  key  services  than can  help                                                                    
     recently-released  offenders re-enter  society smoothly                                                                    
     and   reduce   recidivism.  However,   many   probation                                                                    
     officers  are seeing  an  increase  in caseloads  which                                                                    
     diminishes  the   amount  of   time  spent   with  each                                                                    
     According to a  study by The PEW Center  on the States,                                                                    
     success rates  among offenders are not  high. More than                                                                    
     40% of probationers  and more than half  of parolees do                                                                    
     not complete  their supervision terms  successfully. In                                                                    
     fact,  parole  violations  account for  almost  35%  of                                                                    
     admissions in  state prisons, and nearly  half of local                                                                    
     jail  inmates were  on probation  or  parole when  they                                                                    
     were arrested.                                                                                                             
8:14:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK relayed  that 64 percent of  inmates with the                                                               
Department  of Corrections  in Alaska  are non-violent  offenders                                                               
and  probation violators.   He  indicated  that returning  parole                                                               
violators cost the state approximately  $158.67 per day for "hard                                                               
prison bed,"  and almost $58,000 a  year, per inmate.   He stated                                                               
that  about 40  percent of  the inmates  are pre-trial  offenders                                                               
awaiting  bail,  who  have  not  been  convicted  of  a  criminal                                                               
offense.    He indicated  that  of  those,  the highest  rate  of                                                               
recidivism occurs among youthful  males, minorities, and property                                                               
offenders.   He  said the  department reported  that the  current                                                               
average caseload of parole officers is 85.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  paraphrased the  next two paragraphs  of the                                                               
sponsor statement,  which read  as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
     In  recent years,  the number  of duties  for probation                                                                    
     officers  has  grown  to  include  the  taking  of  DNA                                                                    
     samples,  ensuring the  offender's compliance  with the                                                                    
     Sex Offender  Registry and  conducting home  visits and                                                                    
     address  confirmation  checks. Corrections  populations                                                                    
     have also  experienced tremendous  growth for  the past                                                                    
     two  decades.  In  an attempt  to  alleviate  jail  and                                                                    
     prison   crowding,   probation  caseloads   are   being                                                                    
     populated with offenders  that potentially pose greater                                                                    
     community safety  threats. These offenders may  be gang                                                                    
     members,   sex   offenders,    or   domestic   violence                                                                    
     offenders,  and require  more officer  time to  provide                                                                    
     adequate  supervision,  treatment, and  enforcement  of                                                                    
     conditions  in   order  to  effectively   modify  their                                                                    
     A  number   of  studies  have  examined   practices  of                                                                    
     probation  officers and  have demonstrated  that medium                                                                    
     and high-risk  offenders garner  the most  benefit from                                                                    
     intensive   correctional    interventions.   Pro-social                                                                    
     modeling  and   reinforcement,  problem   solving,  and                                                                    
     cognitive  techniques  are  core  skills  for  reducing                                                                    
     recidivism  in  probation   supervision.  If  probation                                                                    
     officers are  spending less  time with  each individual                                                                    
     due to high caseloads,  their ability to help offenders                                                                    
     develop these skills is severely hampered.                                                                                 
8:16:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  said probation  and parole  officers provide                                                               
key services  that can help  recently released  offenders reenter                                                               
society smoothly  and can reduce  recidivism.  He  indicated that                                                               
under  the  proposed legislation,  the  number  of caseloads  for                                                               
parole officers would  be diminished.  He  relayed that currently                                                               
there are 11  states that limit probation officer  caseloads.  He                                                               
said right  now DOC is  running at  "101 percent" of  its general                                                               
capacity,  despite opening  its  Goose Creek  Prison Facility  in                                                               
2002, at  a cost of  $250 million.   He stated that  if unabated,                                                               
Alaska's annual  3 percent prison population  growth would result                                                               
shortly in the need for a  new prison.  He reported that Alaska's                                                               
prison population  was growing at a  rate four times that  of the                                                               
state's  population.   One  way  to  ensure  that rate  does  not                                                               
continue its  growth is  to ensure the  success of  people coming                                                               
out  of prison  and  entering society.   He  relayed  that as  of                                                               
January  23,   2015,  Alaska's   incarceration  rate   was  5,216                                                               
offenders in prison.                                                                                                            
8:18:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK  indicated  that  the  State  of  Texas  has                                                               
statutes to  limit the number  of caseloads  from 11 to  60, with                                                               
the  higher number  being allowed  for lighter  cases.   He named                                                               
eleven  states  [that have  adult  probation  and parole  officer                                                               
caseload  statutes]:     Arizona,  Connecticut,  Florida,  Idaho,                                                               
Kentucky,  Minnesota,  Nebraska,   New  Mexico,  North  Carolina,                                                               
Texas,  and  Vermont.   He  said  HB  22  would set  the  maximum                                                               
caseload at  60, but noted that  most of the other  states have a                                                               
limit of 50  or less, dependent upon the level  of crime that has                                                               
been committed.                                                                                                                 
8:20:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK,  in response to Chair  Lynn, reiterated that                                                               
currently the average caseload for  probation officers is 85, and                                                               
he confirmed  that the caseloads  vary depending on  the severity                                                               
of the  crime for which a  person was incarcerated.   He said the                                                               
Department of  Corrections ensures that officers  are specialized                                                               
in  the areas  in which  they work  with parolees  and people  on                                                               
CHAIR LYNN  said he  agrees with  the intent of  HB 22,  that the                                                               
number of  caseloads should be  reduced; however, he  remarked on                                                               
the  serious   financial  trouble   Alaska  is  having,   and  he                                                               
questioned   whether  the   state  could   afford  the   proposed                                                               
legislation.  He asked how much  it would cost the state to bring                                                               
the number of caseloads down.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   TUCK   said  at   this   point   the  cost   was                                                               
indeterminate.  He indicated that  the State of Texas closed down                                                               
one of its prisons in 2012,  as result of addressing the issue of                                                               
recidivism, and limiting  the caseloads of parole  officers was a                                                               
big part of  that.  He said Texas saw  a savings of approximately                                                               
$440  million annually.   He  said the  State of  Alaska's prison                                                               
system  is the  fifth  largest  expenditure in  its  budget.   He                                                               
stated that the  goal is to invest wisely in  order to reduce the                                                               
cost down the road.   Limiting the caseload of probation officers                                                               
would be one way to do so.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK stated that  probation officers are the front                                                               
line  to those  individuals  exiting  the prison  system.   As  a                                                               
matter  of  public  safety  and   success,  those  officers  hold                                                               
released  prisoners  accountable.    They  also  coach  them  and                                                               
partner them  with resources necessary  for their success.   When                                                               
the  caseloads  becomes  too  heavy,  it  is  often  the  exiting                                                               
prisoner that  is not  guided, and  he/she often  commits another                                                               
crime  or makes  a  technical  error that  requires  a return  to                                                               
prison.    He said  the  jobs  of  probation officer  and  parole                                                               
officer cannot be  done by a computer; they require  face to face                                                               
time with parolees and probationers.                                                                                            
8:23:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN offered his understanding  that the sponsor was saying                                                               
that  the State  of Alaska  would save  the cost  associated with                                                               
parolees  going  back to  prison  because  of reduced  recidivism                                                               
under HB 22.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  responded that is  correct.  He  mentioned a                                                               
2015 Recidivism Reduction  Plan and the Pew  Research Center, and                                                               
he said there was a recommendation  in a report to invite the Pew                                                               
Public  Safety  Project to  provide  Alaska  with free  technical                                                               
assistance  to help  identify factors  in  driving down  Alaska's                                                               
prison population  growth.  He  said there  are a lot  of studies                                                               
directly  related to  probation  officers.   He  stated that  the                                                               
second-highest  reason  for   felony  admission  is  probationary                                                               
failure, and  he reiterated that  limiting caseloads  would allow                                                               
focus  on probationers  and parolees  and "give  them the  proper                                                               
attention for their successes."                                                                                                 
8:25:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TALERICO observed  that there  are 207  probation                                                               
officers that  work for the  state and 6,258 people  on probation                                                               
and parole, which  comes out to an average of  30.3 per caseload.                                                               
He ventured  that the problem  exists mostly in  Anchorage, where                                                               
the caseload  is about 85 people  per officer.  He  asked if that                                                               
is correct.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK  responded  that   there  is  a  problem  in                                                               
Anchorage and higher  rates in Nome and Barrow;  the numbers vary                                                               
by study  and the overall  average is  about 85 -  85 statewide."                                                               
He  relayed the  lowest  [caseloads]  in the  past  have been  in                                                               
Bethel and  Fairbanks.  He  indicated that the  numbers fluctuate                                                               
depending on the nature of crimes and availability of services.                                                                 
8:28:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN  asked  how  the  system  works  with  parolees  from                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK deferred to representatives from DOC.                                                                       
8:28:32 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  opined that the sponsor  had portrayed the                                                               
ratio between inmates  and probation officers as one  that can be                                                               
adjusted  in order  to reduce  recidivism.   He mentioned  Senate                                                               
Bill 64, passed in 2014, which  was focused on this very problem.                                                               
Part of that legislation  would expand Probationer Accountability                                                               
with Certain Enforcement (PACE)  statewide, and there was funding                                                               
involved  that  would  reform  the  [Division  of  Probation  and                                                               
Parole].     He  also   mentioned  electronic   monitoring,  risk                                                               
assessment tools to  determine whether an inmate  is violent, and                                                               
treatment  programs  across  the  state  focused  on  recidivism.                                                               
Further, he  said the  Department of  Health and  Social Services                                                               
(DHSS)  is  involved.   He  expressed  he was  having  difficulty                                                               
understanding why  the sponsor  thinks that  "just putting  ... a                                                               
cap on this ratio will do much."   He said his impression is that                                                               
DOC is  committed to reducing  recidivism and has no  aversion to                                                               
spending money  to that end.   He  mentioned the fiscal  note and                                                               
said  there  is a  big  range  of  imprisoned.   He  offered  his                                                               
understanding  that  in  an administrative  probation  situation,                                                               
"they say  200 isn't unreasonable."   He opined that  a statutory                                                               
cap on the  number of cases ignores what's going  on and "what we                                                               
just did."  He asked  Representative Tuck to explain the critical                                                               
nature  of  the   ratio  in  the  context  with   all  the  other                                                               
aforementioned recidivism reduction efforts already going on.                                                                   
8:31:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK read  the bill  language and  clarified that                                                               
[HB 22]  would not be  the whole answer,  but a  part of it.   He                                                               
said  PACE started  in  2010 and  allows quick  action  to get  a                                                               
parole  violator back  in  to  a program.    He  said the  second                                                               
highest reason  for recidivism is probation  violation, and other                                                               
states  have shown  a  reduction  in recidivism  as  a result  of                                                               
putting a  cap on caseloads.   He offered more  details regarding                                                               
the State  of Texas, which has  a limit of 60  caseloads for low-                                                               
risk inmates,  35 for those  in a special needs  offender program                                                               
or a  substance abuse  program, 24  for those  in a  sex offender                                                               
program, 20  for those who  are electronically monitored,  and 11                                                               
for  those in  a super-intensive  supervision program.   He  said                                                               
Alaska's electronic  monitoring program is under  the supervision                                                               
of its  parole and probation officers.   He talked about  the job                                                               
of the  officers to  provide coaching,  counseling, and  to bring                                                               
resources to  the probationer that  could help keep  him/her from                                                               
returning to prison.                                                                                                            
8:34:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  asked whether  the prime  sponsor believes                                                               
that  DOC  has resources  currently  to  accomplish this  without                                                               
legislation, and would do so.   He said it sounded like the prime                                                               
sponsor  was  assuming that  the  department  would overwork  the                                                               
officers.   He said  he thinks the  department has  the resources                                                               
now and would not overwork the officers.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK responded that if  DOC has the resources now,                                                               
then implementing the  bill should be easy.  He  said this should                                                               
be   something   that   is   implemented   beyond   the   current                                                               
administration.   He acknowledged that the  department has worked                                                               
over the years to bring the  number of caseloads down from 120 to                                                               
85, and the goal is to reduce that number to 60.                                                                                
8:36:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN  asked  whether currently  there  are  enough  parole                                                               
officers  available to  bring that  number  down to  60 or  less,                                                               
without hiring additional officers.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK offered  his  understanding  that there  are                                                               
quite a  few positions unfilled;  however, he deferred to  DOC to                                                               
answer the question.                                                                                                            
8:36:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS asked whether  any thought had been                                                               
given  to including  language  in HB  22  that creates  different                                                               
caseload caps based on the risk level of the parolee.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  answered that  the department  currently has                                                               
three  levels  it  works  with:   minimum,  medium,  and  maximum                                                               
[risk].    He  offered  his  understanding  that  the  department                                                               
attempts to distribute  the spectrum to each  officer rather than                                                               
giving  any one  officer  all maximum  level  risk parolees,  for                                                               
example.   He explained  that he wanted  to allow  the department                                                               
the  flexibility to  define how  it wants  to function,  but just                                                               
wanted to limit the caseloads to 60.                                                                                            
8:38:15 AM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  STEWART,   Probation  Officer,   Anchorage  Correctional                                                               
Complex,  Division of  Institutions,  Department of  Corrections,                                                               
opined  that  HB  22  is   important  legislation  for  probation                                                               
officere whose  job it  is to  work with  offenders to  help them                                                               
change their thinking behavior, which  will help them stay out of                                                               
jail.    He  said  the  goal  of  the  department  is  to  reduce                                                               
recidivism,  but  it is  not  possible  to  do that  now  because                                                               
officers  are doing  so much  paperwork and  have little  time to                                                               
work hands on  with offenders.  He said caseloads  run from 80 to                                                               
100 or more.  He stated that  on February 18, 2015, a hearing was                                                               
held  by  the  House  Finance   Committee  to  address  the  2015                                                               
Recidivism  Reduction  Plan  presented  by  the  Recidivism  Work                                                               
Group.  He  said "we" believe it is a  great plan; however, there                                                               
is  one  large problem,  the  number  of caseloads  of  probation                                                               
officers.  He  said currently officers are  spending time putting                                                               
out fires started  by a handful of individuals,  while a majority                                                               
are  left without  face-to-face guidance  at a  critical time  in                                                               
their  lives.   He  said, "While  we  support the  evidence-based                                                               
approach in  handling offenders,  we must have  more face-to-face                                                               
time with each  offender in our caseloads  for the evidence-based                                                               
program to work."   He emphasized the importance  of working with                                                               
each  individual on  their program  plan.   The programs  require                                                               
more paperwork in careful documentation  and more time spent with                                                               
individuals.   He said failure  to reduce caseloads  would result                                                               
in a failure to reduce recidivism.   He noted that during a House                                                               
Finance  Committee  hearing  information  was  relayed  that  the                                                               
current recidivism rate was 63.19  percent as of fiscal year 2011                                                               
(FY 11), and  that the Department of Corrections  is currently at                                                               
"101  percent" of  general capacity  and increasing  at a  growth                                                               
rate of 3 percent each year.                                                                                                    
8:41:54 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. STEWART said a report  from North Carolina, dated March 2013,                                                               
shows that a caseload of 60 is  ideal.  He indicated that most of                                                               
the Department  of Correction's officers are  assigned a caseload                                                               
of 66; however, because of  vacant positions, job injury, medical                                                               
leave, or military leave, the  caseloads "in real life" exceed 70                                                               
percent.   He  indicated that  a  2011 report  showed that  South                                                               
Carolina had  special caseloads of approximately  30 individuals,                                                               
which covered the categories of mental health and sex offenders.                                                                
8:43:14 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. STEWART said when the  Recidivism Reduction Plan was given to                                                               
the House Finance Committee, it  was stated that there were about                                                               
5,100 inmates  at a cost  of $158  a hard bed  per day.   He said                                                               
"our" goal  is to cut  recidivism by  at least 15  percent, which                                                               
would be a cost  savings of roughly $27 million a  year.  He said                                                               
it  is necessary  to  spend money  in order  to  save money,  but                                                               
evidence from other  states show that money will be  saved in the                                                               
future.  If  the problem is not  fixed now, he said,  the cost of                                                               
incarceration  will  continue  to  climb.   He  stated,  "Keeping                                                               
offenders  out of  jail by  providing active  probation officers'                                                               
supervision is  the answer to  reduce recidivism."  He  asked the                                                               
committee  to support  HB 22,  because he  said the  officers are                                                               
trying as hard as they can but need the legislature's help.                                                                     
8:44:55 AM                                                                                                                    
WARREN   WATERS,   Probation  Officer,   Anchorage   Correctional                                                               
Complex,  Division of  Institutions,  Department of  Corrections,                                                               
relayed that as a worker for  the State of Alaska, he is allotted                                                               
37.5 hours  a week.   He said divided by  a caseload of  85, that                                                               
comes out  to 26.5 minutes  per parolee  per week, and  that does                                                               
not include driving  to court or doing home  visits or completing                                                               
all the  data entry.   He  said a  child cannot  be raised  on 26                                                               
hours a  week, and officers  are dealing  with people who  have a                                                               
lot of needs.   He said the  attempt is made to  meet those needs                                                               
in  order  to  keep  those   people  from  returning  to  prison.                                                               
Further, he stated that officers  have many assessment tools with                                                               
which to determine a parolee's needs  and custody level.  He said                                                               
the level  of service inventory  (LSI) is the  current assessment                                                               
tool used, and it takes over an  hour to complete an LSI for each                                                               
offender.  In  response to Chair Lynn, he explained  that the LSI                                                               
is  the tool  used to  figure  out the  minimum, medium,  maximum                                                               
custody  level in  order to  determine  programing and  treatment                                                               
MR.  WATERS  recollected that  someone  had  asked why  caps  are                                                               
necessary if  the department already has  a system in place.   He                                                               
said the  short answer is that  the department is run  by people,                                                               
and when there  is crisis or budget shortfall,  those people make                                                               
cuts and don't  fill positions, which means everyone  else has to                                                               
pick up the slack.  He stated  that on paper, it may appear there                                                               
are enough officers  to do the job, but human  error plays a part                                                               
in management.   He  said having  a cap  establishes a  limit for                                                               
officers.  Mr. Waters gave  examples of how problems surface that                                                               
result  in overloading  of probation/parole  officers.   He  said                                                               
many parole officers  cringe when they open a  newspaper and read                                                               
that someone has  committed a heinous crime, and  they are hoping                                                               
that that person  was not on their caseload.   He said it happens                                                               
more often than not that  the people reported as having committed                                                               
a  crime are  those who  are  on probation  or parole.   He  said                                                               
officers wonder if crimes could  have been prevented if only they                                                               
had had  a few  more minutes  with the parolee  and found  them a                                                               
better job or better housing.                                                                                                   
8:49:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. WATERS said  he knows everything costs money and  this is not                                                               
the year to  be asking for it.   He stated that  the officers are                                                               
dealing with bad  people, trying to keep the  community safe, and                                                               
trying to help  people change their lives.  He  said, "That's all                                                               
we're asking for  is the time to spend with  these individuals to                                                               
change their lives to make Alaska a better place."                                                                              
CHAIR LYNN asked why there are vacant positions.                                                                                
MR.  WATERS said  he only  can speculate  that some  offices have                                                               
high turnaround  rates, partly because  of management  issues and                                                               
partly because of the issue of  caseloads.  He indicated that the                                                               
department had understood that under  Senate Bill 64, it would be                                                               
getting  10 more  positions, but  those positions  have not  been                                                               
filled in the nine months since that legislative session ended.                                                                 
8:51:44 AM                                                                                                                    
[Due  to  technical  difficulties,  the  following  question  was                                                               
reconstructed from the committee secretary's log notes.]                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES  asked whether  Mr. Waters was  required to                                                               
see each parolee weekly.                                                                                                        
MR. WATERS  answered no.   He added,  "Not even monthly;  it just                                                               
depends on the type of caseload."                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER asked what Mr.  Waters' own caseload was at                                                               
MR.  WATERS   answered  over   100.     He  said   the  Anchorage                                                               
Correctional  Complex  supervises  approximately  1,100  inmates,                                                               
because it  is also  responsible for the  four halfway  houses in                                                               
the  Anchorage area.   He  related that  there are  ten probation                                                               
officers at the complex.                                                                                                        
8:53:02 AM                                                                                                                    
RONALD TAYLOR,  Commissioner, Department of  Corrections, thanked                                                               
the committee  for hearing  HB 22.   He indicated  that it  is in                                                               
talking to  probation officers  that a person  gets the  sense of                                                               
what those  officers face daily.   In response to Chair  Lynn, he                                                               
explained that on  the probation and parole  side, the department                                                               
has  a  required vacancy  factor  that  it  must meet,  which  is                                                               
approximately $1 million; therefore, there  would be at least ten                                                               
vacant positions.   He said,  the other  two would be  because of                                                               
transfers,  or  it could  be  because  someone  left one  of  the                                                               
COMMISSIONER   TAYLOR,    regarding   Representative   Talerico's                                                               
previous calculations, said it is  incorrect to "look at the 207"                                                               
and, based  on the current  caseload activity, conclude  that the                                                               
caseload  is about  34.   He  expressed his  desire for  everyone                                                               
considering caseloads addressed  under HB 22 to  realize that the                                                               
intent  is  to help  probation  officers  be more  successful  by                                                               
giving  them  more   time  with  each  case.     He  offered  his                                                               
understanding  that  the number  6,200  had  been highlighted  in                                                               
regard  to  caseload  activity and  indicated  that  that  number                                                               
includes only the  field caseloads; it does  not include caseload                                                               
activity of  the institutional fields, the  electronic monitoring                                                               
fields, the  parole board,  or classification.   He said  the 207                                                               
probation officers also include supervisors,  some of whom do not                                                               
carry a caseload.   He indicated he wanted everyone  to share the                                                               
same understanding  regarding the  entire scope of  caseloads, so                                                               
that  no   one  would   question  the   need  for   the  proposed                                                               
8:55:59 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER TAYLOR  noted that  Representative Keller  had asked                                                               
whether the  department currently  has sufficient resources.   He                                                               
said the answer is "absolutely not."   He said the department had                                                               
asked for 25 new positions to be  able to do the things that were                                                               
required under  the aforementioned Senate  Bill 64.  He  said the                                                               
10   parole  officer   positions  that   are  assigned   for  the                                                               
institution were  not scheduled  to come on  line until  the next                                                               
fiscal  year.   The  department needed  time  to train  probation                                                               
officers  and work  with  them  in relation  to  the "risk  needs                                                               
assessment" to help them transition from where they were.                                                                       
COMMISSIONER TAYLOR  said caseloads have  dropped as a  result of                                                               
the bills  previously brought  forth over the  last four  or five                                                               
years by Representative Tuck and  Senator McGuire.  He emphasized                                                               
that although  the caseloads  have dropped from  120 to  85, they                                                               
are  still  not at  the  number  they should  be.    He said  the                                                               
department  is   able  to   work  within   its  system   to  find                                                               
efficiencies,  but unfortunately  it  has not  done  that on  the                                                               
institutional side.   He  said the  department needs  to consider                                                               
all the cases that the institutions  are dealing with and all the                                                               
paperwork requirements.   He said  the department needs  to focus                                                               
on  that which  the previous  testifiers relayed  to get  a truer                                                               
picture  of what  the caseloads  really are  versus what  we have                                                               
right now.   He said  the department  is working toward  being as                                                               
efficient and effective as possible.                                                                                            
8:58:02 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER TAYLOR  recollected that Chair Lynn  had asked about                                                               
working in  rural areas.   He said  the department does  not have                                                               
the resources to work in  those areas; therefore, it utilizes the                                                               
Village Public  Safety Officers  (VPSOs) that  live in  the rural                                                               
communities to do  checks, such as breathalyzers,  to ensure that                                                               
the parolee is abiding by his/her conditions of parole.                                                                         
CHAIR  LYNN  asked what  percentage  of  parolees are  living  in                                                               
remote villages.                                                                                                                
MR. TAYLOR said  he does not know.  He  offered his understanding                                                               
that Chair  Lynn was talking  about villages, not caseloads.   He                                                               
explained,  "We   could  have  a  person   that's  supervised  by                                                               
Anchorage probation  that's out  in a  rural area."   He  said he                                                               
would have to research those numbers.                                                                                           
CHAIR LYNN said  the question did not pertain too  much to HB 22.                                                               
He  explained that  he  was curious  because  the parolee  cannot                                                               
afford to  go the city  and the  parole officer cannot  afford to                                                               
fly out to the  village.  He opined that the use  of the VPSO was                                                               
a good fill-in for that position.                                                                                               
8:59:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   TALERICO   offered   Commissioner   Taylor   the                                                               
statistical information  he had  previously referenced  and asked                                                               
whether, with  that information,  Commissioner Taylor  could then                                                               
return with more accurate information.                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER TAYLOR confirmed he  would provide the institutional                                                               
and  electronic monitoring  caseload numbers  that Representative                                                               
Talerico was missing.                                                                                                           
9:00:16 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN, after ascertaining no  one further wished to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony on HB 22.                                                                                               
CHAIR LYNN stated he was in  favor of reducing the caseloads.  He                                                               
said  likewise he  is in  favor of  having a  smaller student  to                                                               
teacher  ratio,  but ventured  that  both  that and  the  reduced                                                               
caseload for parole and probation  officers could cost money.  He                                                               
remarked, "In  some degree,  trying to figure  out how  much that                                                               
would lower the recidivism rate is  like trying to nail Jell-O to                                                               
the wall,  because you  really don't  know -  nobody knows."   He                                                               
reiterated that he was in favor of reducing the caseloads.                                                                      
9:01:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER stated that anything  with a fiscal note is                                                               
a concern  because the  State of  Alaska is  in dire  straits and                                                               
cannot  spend  money; however,  he  said  the cost  for  reducing                                                               
recidivism does  not compare to  Medicaid growth costs.   He said                                                               
the  legislature passed  Senate Bill  64,  and "as  we speak,"  a                                                               
Justice Reform Commission  is reviewing the issue in  detail.  He                                                               
said it was difficult for him  to consider that the cap [proposed                                                               
under  HB 22]  would  have  any effect  on  the effectiveness  of                                                               
probation officers or the recidivism rate.                                                                                      
9:03:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK stated  that  in 2007,  the  State of  Texas                                                               
introduced four  bills, and one  was a standalone  bill regarding                                                               
the limitation  [on caseloads] of parole  and probation officers.                                                               
He  said  Texas was  faced  with  spending  $500 million  on  new                                                               
prisons  or  investing  $240  million,   and  the  latter  choice                                                               
resulted in an average savings of  $443 million in two years.  By                                                               
2012, the  State of Texas  was actually  able to close  a prison.                                                               
He  said  a  2012  report entitled,  "Reduced  Caseloads  Improve                                                               
Probation  Outcome,"  published  in  the  Journal  of  Crime  and                                                             
Justice,  stated that  the effect  of officers  fully trained  in                                                             
implementing  evidence-based  practices  was  an  approximate  30                                                               
percent  reduction  in  the  recidivism   rate.    Another  study                                                               
conducted in 2011, by the  Crime and Justice Institute, suggested                                                               
that the reduction in caseloads  could reduce criminal recidivism                                                               
among  medium- to  high-risk offenders,  and Representative  Tuck                                                               
said that  was desirable in  order to keep  the public safe.   He                                                               
reported that  in one county  in Florida, researchers  found that                                                               
intensive   supervision   with   small  caseloads   reduced   the                                                               
likelihood  of criminal  recidivism  by 26  percent for  violent,                                                               
property, and drug offenses, and  that percentage increased to 45                                                               
percent when the drug category was removed.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK said  in looking  at  opportunities for  the                                                               
state to save money the legislature  must ask what the cost would                                                               
be  of  "not doing  something  like  this."    He said  the  high                                                               
turnover rate within the Office  of Children's Services has to do                                                               
with the workload.   He said people want to  help others and when                                                               
they are not able to do that  they get discouraged and leave.  He                                                               
said  the  situation  is  the  same  with  parole  and  probation                                                               
officers   who   want   to   see   the   offenders   successfully                                                               
[rehabilitated].  Without allocated  resources, the turnover rate                                                               
for parole  and probation  officers will continue  to be  high or                                                               
even increase.   He said,  "We want  to ... see  people receiving                                                               
the services they  need ... to be successful once  they leave our                                                               
prison system."   He related  that at  first, the State  of Texas                                                               
had expected  the fiscal note  to be $30.3 million;  however, the                                                               
revised fiscal note indicated that  there would be no significant                                                               
cost to  the state  because of the  reduction in  recidivism and,                                                               
thus,  in the  number  of  prisoners.   The  change  to the  bill                                                               
required the  Texas Department  of Criminal  Justice to  submit a                                                               
report each  year explaining  why the  department failed  to meet                                                               
the guidelines  and stating  the amount of  money needed  to meet                                                               
those guidelines.                                                                                                               
9:08:26 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN  expressed  appreciation  for  parole  and  probation                                                               
officers, whom  he opined have a  tough job no matter  what their                                                               
caseload.    He  offered  his understanding  that  there  was  an                                                               
indeterminate fiscal  note for  HB 22, and  he inquired  if there                                                               
was any way to make it a zero fiscal note.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK replied  that he  would like  to use  Texas'                                                               
plan as  a model and work  with Alaska's DOC to  determine how to                                                               
bring the  fiscal note  "down to  where we  can start  making ...                                                               
these necessary investments to get us money."                                                                                   
CHAIR LYNN said he would like to see that happen.                                                                               
9:09:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STUTES  said she  did  not  think there  was  any                                                               
question that  "maybe we  need a little  help in  that direction"                                                               
and  need to  reduce the  caseload  of probation  officers.   She                                                               
opined  that if  the Justice  Reform Committee  is reviewing  the                                                               
issue, then HB 22  may be a step ahead of its time.   She said it                                                               
seemed   that   there    were   commissioners   overseeing   many                                                               
departments, but  none of the departments  were working together.                                                               
She ventured that  it may be possible to have  a zero fiscal note                                                               
if all the departments, as  well as the Justice Reform Committee,                                                               
worked together.   She concluded,  "I'm a proponent of  the idea,                                                               
but I just think it's a little premature currently for this."                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK  asked   Representative  Stutes  to  clarify                                                               
whether she meant  premature because other people  are looking at                                                               
things, or because the results are unknown.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES  suggested that the committee  wait for the                                                               
findings  and recommendations  of  the  Justice Reform  Committee                                                               
before  approaching them  with "this."   She  added, that  should                                                               
they not address the probation  officer situation, then put it in                                                               
the mix - let them address it with the whole problem.                                                                           
CHAIR LYNN announced that HB 22 was held over.                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HB56 ver A.PDF HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
02 HB56 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
03 HB56 Supporting Documents - LAA Research AK Firefighting History.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
04 HB56 Supporting Documents- Letter Alaska Fire Chiefs Association.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
05 HB56 Supporting Documents- Letter Mark Hall of Hilcorps.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
06 08 HB56 Supporting Documents- Ntnl Volunteer Fire Council.PDF HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
07 HB56 Fiscal Note DOA 2-20-2015.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
08 HB56-LEG-SESS-02-20-2015.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
01 HB22 Version A.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
02 HB22 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
03 HB22 Supporting Documents - Resources and studies relating to probation caseloads.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
04 HB22 - Supporting Document - Probation & Parole Officer Caseload Legislative Research Report.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
05 HB22 - Supporting Documents - The Urban Institute.Public Safety First (section 10).pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
06 HB22 - Supporting Documents - The Urban Institute.Public Safety First.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
07 HB22 Fiscal Note DOC.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
09 HB56 Supporting Documents- Letter AK Professional Firefighters Association.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 56
08 HB22 - Supporting Document - DOC Projected Institutional Inmate Population and Funding-LFD.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22
09 HB22 Supporting Documents Copy of PO_Caseload_02-23-2015.pdf HSTA 2/24/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 22