Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

01/21/2016 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved HB 175 Out of Committee
Moved HB 231 Out of Committee
                 HB 231-EXTEND BOARD OF PAROLE                                                                              
8:06:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  that the first order of  business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL  NO. 231,  "An Act  extending  the termination  date of  the                                                               
Board of Parole; and providing for an effective date."                                                                          
[CHAIR LYNN handed the gavel to Vice Chair Keller.]                                                                             
8:08:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN,  as  chair  of  the  House  State  Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee, sponsor,  announced his staff member  would present HB
8:08:47 AM                                                                                                                    
ESTHER  MIELKE,  Staff,  Representative Bob  Lynn,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  presented  HB 231  on  behalf  of the  House  State                                                               
Affairs  Standing  Committee,  sponsor, on  which  Representative                                                               
Lynn serves  as the chair.   She stated that the  Board of Parole                                                               
currently serves  in Alaska as  the authority  over determination                                                               
of paroles.  Under current  statute, the board will be terminated                                                               
on  June 30,  2016.   The proposed  legislation would  extend the                                                               
date to June 30, 2022.                                                                                                          
MS. MIELKE stated  that the Division of Audit  conducted an audit                                                               
on  the  Parole   Board  last  year.    The   audit  included  an                                                               
examination of  the board's  performance in  light of  the eleven                                                               
sunset  criteria  points provided  within  Alaska  Statute.   The                                                               
division found the board to  be in good standing, but recommended                                                               
four  improvements  to  the board's  operations,  which  address:                                                               
Accuracy  and  consistency  of information  contained  in  parole                                                               
files;  documentation  of   victim  and  offender  notifications;                                                               
deficiencies  in proposed  regulation  changes  methods; and  the                                                               
security of  the Department  of Corrections'  information system.                                                               
Ms. Mielke  concluded by  stating that HB  231 would  fulfill the                                                               
constitutional requirement  that the State of  Alaska establish a                                                               
parole system  and accordingly assist  in keeping  Alaskans safe.                                                               
She  noted   the  following  people  were   available  to  answer                                                               
questions:   Sherrie  Daigle of  the  Department of  Corrections,                                                               
Kris Curtis  from Legislative  Audit, and  Jeff Edwards  from the                                                               
Parole Board.                                                                                                                   
8:10:41 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR KELLER remarked that  the work by the Criminal Justice                                                               
Commission has increased  the importance of the  function of [Mr.                                                               
Edwards on the Parole Board].                                                                                                   
8:11:21 AM                                                                                                                    
JEFF  EDWARDS,  Executive  Director, Parole  Board,  Division  of                                                               
Probation  and  Parole,  Department   of  Corrections  (DOC),  in                                                               
response to Vice  Chair Keller, stated that the  Parole Board has                                                               
been  working with  the commission  on a  regular basis,  and the                                                               
commission   has  been   keeping  the   board  apprised   of  the                                                               
recommendations made.   He  characterized the  Parole Board  as a                                                               
quasi-part-time  board   whose  members  are  appointed   by  the                                                               
governor and work  from their homes around the  state and convene                                                               
monthly  to   conduct  hearings.     He  indicated   that  future                                                               
legislation  would  create  change   wherein  the  board  may  be                                                               
incorporated and have  its work schedule increased.   Further, he                                                               
said  he anticipated  the board  would be  asked to  dramatically                                                               
increase the  number of people who  apply for parole, which  is a                                                               
goal already  supported by the  board.   He said the  board feels                                                               
that  its process  is  solid,  in the  fact  that  the board  can                                                               
conduct  a   good  evaluation  of  candidates   and,  instead  of                                                               
warehousing inmates "in  hard bed," which is  very expensive, the                                                               
board can  conduct a  thorough evaluation  of the  applicants and                                                               
potentially offer  early release.   He said  the board  has found                                                               
the process  to be  cumbersome; the  applicants sometimes  do not                                                               
want to  apply.   New legislation could  be introduced  to demand                                                               
that all  eligible inmates  apply for  early parole,  which would                                                               
increase the  Parole Board's docket significantly.   He indicated                                                               
there is  other legislation that  will affect the board,  and the                                                               
overall global scope is to  reduce recidivism, free up hard beds,                                                               
allow people  to transition and  reenter into the  communities as                                                               
returning  Alaska   citizens,  and  ensure  there   is  fair  and                                                               
impartial  review  process  of any  parolees  who  commit  parole                                                               
violations on the street.                                                                                                       
8:13:40 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE  CHAIR  KELLER  noted  that   the  Alaska  Criminal  Justice                                                               
Commission had  been meeting  for a  little over  a year,  and he                                                               
indicated that there had been  ensuing legislation presented as a                                                               
result.   He related  that both House  and Senate  leadership, as                                                               
well as other  various legislators, have asked  the commission to                                                               
figure out how  the state is going  to be able to  afford to keep                                                               
its prisoners in the future.  He continued:                                                                                     
     Because of  the projected increase in  prisoners in the                                                                    
     future,  we   were  looking  at  another   Goose  Creek                                                                    
     construction project,  and it  gave us  the opportunity                                                                    
     to  do some  reform  considerations, and  I was  really                                                                    
     impressed with  the work that  was done, and it  puts a                                                                    
     lot  of focus  on the  Parole Board,  because obviously                                                                    
     when  people   get  out  they  need   those  transition                                                                    
     procedures and processes and programs there to help.                                                                       
8:15:05 AM                                                                                                                    
KRIS  CURTIS, Legislative  Auditor,  Legislative Audit  Division,                                                               
Legislative Affairs Agency, offered to answer questions.                                                                        
8:15:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  VAZQUEZ  directed attention  to  page  16 of  the                                                               
audit, which  she observed shows  "rate of  replication decision"                                                               
by the Parole Board.  The  decisions are broken up from 2004-2007                                                               
and show high rates, but she  said the rates shown from 2011-2014                                                               
are higher.   For example, she  noted that the rate  for 2011 was                                                               
74  percent "revoke  and re-parole";  the  rate for  2012 was  66                                                               
percent; and the  rate in 2017 was 77 percent.   She opined there                                                               
is a problem -  not in the Parole Board itself,  but having to do                                                               
with  a lack  of success  in paroling  people.   She read  a note                                                               
below those statistics, as follows:   "The board stated that past                                                               
decisions 2004-2007  were heavily  influenced by  the elimination                                                               
of  various treatment  programs during  difficult budget  years."                                                               
She asked Ms. Curtis if it is  her conclusion that it is the lack                                                               
of treatment programs that is the cause [of the high rates].                                                                    
8:16:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CURTIS said  the point to make is reflected  in the column to                                                               
the right:   "revoke  and deny."   In terms  of revoking  and re-                                                               
paroling  an individual  and allowing  him/her to  remain in  the                                                               
community  as opposed  to  having the  person  return to  prison,                                                               
"from  2011-2014, compared  to 2004-2007,  they were  re-paroling                                                               
them  at a  much higher  rate than  in previous  years.   And the                                                               
reason why we were being  told they were being re-incarcerated at                                                               
a higher rate in 2004-2007 was  the lack of treatment programs in                                                               
the community, as a result  of budgetary restrictions during that                                                               
time."  She stated that the  audit makes the point that "from our                                                               
review, they  were - during  the audit period -  being re-paroled                                                               
at a higher rate."  She offered  her belief that that is what the                                                               
communities wanted.                                                                                                             
VICE CHAIR KELLER noted that  the handout to which Representative                                                               
Vazquez had previously referred was "easily available."                                                                         
8:18:37 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR KELLER closed public testimony on HB 231.                                                                            
8:18:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ  asked what had  been done to  address the                                                               
audit recommendations made in 2015.                                                                                             
VICE CHAIR KELLER noted that  "the justice commissioner" had done                                                               
a  lot  of work,  but  said  the issue  was  whether  or not  the                                                               
deadline would be  extended.  He asked  Representative Vazquez if                                                               
she  was recommending  that the  committee  not act  on the  bill                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ answered no.   She opined that the work of                                                               
the board  is critical  to both the  criminal justice  system and                                                               
the community.  She clarified that  she was interested to know if                                                               
the "good audit recommendations" were being addressed.                                                                          
VICE CHAIR KELLER suggested that  the committee could, at a later                                                               
date,  invite the  Parole Board  to talk  to the  committee about                                                               
what it had done in response to the audit.                                                                                      
CHAIR LYNN  noted that there  would be an upcoming  overview from                                                               
the Department of Corrections, at  which time the committee might                                                               
be able to hear from the Parole Board.                                                                                          
8:21:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted that  under  HB  231, the  board                                                               
would be  extended by  only six  years.  He  said he  knows other                                                               
boards that  are extended  for eight, and  he questioned  why the                                                               
same was not proposed for the Parole Board.                                                                                     
CHAIR LYNN said he did not have an answer to that question.                                                                     
8:21:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  CURTIS   explained  that  the  Legislative   Audit  Division                                                               
recommended a 6-year  extension because of the  dynamic nature of                                                               
"the corrections  policy arena  right now and  ... how  the board                                                               
will change dramatically in upcoming  years."  She indicated that                                                               
those  changes,  as  well  as the  full  recommendations  of  the                                                               
division,  could  warrant  oversight  and monitoring  at  a  more                                                               
frequent  rate than  the maximum  eight  years.   In response  to                                                               
Representative Gruenberg, she clarified  that currently there are                                                               
a lot of pending policy changes  to the role of the Parole Board,                                                               
in both  its workload and  procedures.  Additionally, a  new risk                                                               
assessment  tool was  implemented  recently and,  because of  the                                                               
timing  of  the audit,  the  impact  of  that  tool was  not  yet                                                               
evident.   She said the division  settled on six years  as a time                                                               
when  it would  be able  to see  the implications  of the  policy                                                               
changes  and come  back  to  review "the  current  status of  the                                                               
MS. CURTIS, in  response to a follow-up  question, explained that                                                               
the aforementioned  new risk  assessment tool  was being  used by                                                               
the board  to evaluate  the suitability of  parole for  those who                                                               
apply for parole.                                                                                                               
VICE CHAIR  KELLER suggested Representative Gruenberg  would have                                                               
another  opportunity to  asked more  in-depth questions  but said                                                               
that for now, he would like to move on with the bill discussion.                                                                
8:25:26 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN pointed  out that the overview from  the Department of                                                               
Corrections was scheduled for Thursday, January 28, 2016.                                                                       
8:25:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES  moved to  report HB  231 out  of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.  There  being no objection, HB 231 was  reported out of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
1 HB231 ver A.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 231
2 HB231 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 231
3 HB231 Supporting Documents-Audit of Board of Parole.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 231
4 HB231 Fiscal Note.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 231
1 HB0175A.PDF HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 175
2 Sponsor Statement HB175 v.A.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 175
3 HB175 Fiscal Note-HB175-LEG-SESS-1-18-2016.pdf HSTA 1/21/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 175