Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/16/2003 09:04 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 65 "An Act authorizing the Department of Corrections to enter into agreements with municipalities for new or expanded public correctional facilities in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Bethel, and the Municipality of Anchorage." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-Chair Wilken stated that this bill "authorizes the Department of Corrections to enter into a twenty-five year lease agreement with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Mat-Su Borough, Bethel, and Anchorage for a total of 1,160 beds at State correctional facilities and a new State correctional facility." Co-Chair Green referenced the sponsor statement. SFC 03 # 54, Side B 09:53 AM Co-Chair Green emphasized the need for additional prison beds. She reminded of the over 650 prisoners currently housed outside the State, which she characterized as "the least of the worries". She explained the primary concern is the need for additional pretrial facilities in Bethel and Fairbanks due to the significant expense incurred in transporting prisoners between holding facilities and court proceedings. She furthered that the need exists for a larger complex, informing that that it has been determined the most efficient method to accomplish this would be to expand existing facilities. Co-Chair Green shared that under the provisions of this legislation local governments would issue bonds to generate revenue for the construction costs. Under a release agreement with the Department of Corrections, she stated that the Department would oversee the operations of the facilities, as is the current practice. Co-Chair Green remarked that Sutton is a preferable location for expansion because of the existing minimum and medium security facilities. The presence of the two facilities, she stated would provide "immediate backup" in the event of additional needs or emergencies. She furthered that inmates in this location are in close proximity to hospitals, courts and the city of Anchorage "in tolerable instances." Co-Chair Green stressed that regardless of whether additional prisons are constructed in Alaska the State would incur $40 to $45 million in debt within four years for the care of prisoners. She explained this is due to the need to contract with private prisons to house inmates. She pointed out that these funds "leave" the State and that the funds could instead be used to employ Alaskans if additional prison space were constructed in Alaska. Co-Chair Green for adoption of CS SB 65, 23-LS0392\S as a working draft. There was no objection and the committee substitute was ADOPTED as a working draft. Amendment #1: This amendment lowers the maximum annual lease payment for the proposed facility from $14,600 to $11,000 per bed. The amended language in Section 1, on page 2 line 19 of the committee substitute reads as follows. (2) if construction of a new facility of a new facility is authorized, the municipality shall initially own the facility, and the state shall enter into a long-term lease-purchase not to exceed 25 years with the municipality to operate the facility and to receive ownership of the facility at the end of the lease; the annual lease payment for a new facility may not exceed $11,000 a bed; Co-Chair Green moved for adoption. Co-Chair Wilken objected for an explanation. Co-Chair Green explained this amendment conforms the $11,000 amount to language contained elsewhere in the committee substitute. Senator B. Stevens asked how the reduction in the annual lease payment was achieved. Co-Chair Green replied this change is the result of an "overall calculation". MARK ANTRIM, Commissioner, Department of Corrections testified to the ongoing process to make the project more cost efficient since this bill was first introduced. Senator B. Stevens asked why the maximum lease payment amount authorized for the Bethel facility was not reduced as well. JERRY BURNETT, Director, Division of Administrative Services, Department of Corrections, replied that although the estimated cost to operate the facility in the Mat-Su area was reduced, the facilities located in the other areas remains unchanged. Senator B. Stevens clarified that the operating cost would be $16,000 per bed annually at the Bethel facility, $14,600 at the Anchorage location, and $11,000 at the Mat-Su location. Mr. Burnett affirmed. Senator B. Stevens asked why the Mat-Su and Anchorage amounts were different. Mr. Burnett responded that construction of the Anchorage facility would be 100 percent federally funded. Mr. Antrim furthered that the differing figures also reflect different construction costs, as well as the different missions of the three facilities. He explained that the Anchorage Jail is a "booking facility" and that the "booking function" is the most expensive activity of the Department. Co-Chair Green added that examination of operating costs of existing facilities across the State demonstrates variation depending on the mission and size of a facility and type of inmates housed. She pointed out that the Mat-Su facility is less costly to operate because of the number of inmates housed and also because it is not generally used as a pretrial facility. Mr. Antrim informed that pretrial facilities must be build to be indestructible, explaining that when first arrested, people are most combative. Senator Bunde referenced the spreadsheet titled "Department of Corrections FY 2008 Prison Bed Cost Comparison" [copy on file], which lists the costs of housing inmates at a private facility located in Arizona, a private facility located in Alaska, and a public prison located in Alaska. He compared the operating/capital costs per day of $94 per inmate at a private prison in Alaska to $51.36 operating costs for a public prison. He relayed that arguments in favor of a private prison in Alaska attest that wages would be lower than those paid by the State. Senator Taylor asked the relation of construction expenses to future lease amounts, asserting that operating expenses of other facilities have not been based on construction costs. Co-Chair Wilken the question applies to bill itself rather than to the amendment. Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection to the adoption of the amendment and the amendment was ADOPTED. Mr. Antrim gave testimony to the bill, referencing a handout, titled "Department of Corrections" [copy on file]. He attested that the State of Alaska is "approaching crisis level", noting that the inmate facilities operate at 98 to 100 percent of capacity on any given day. He reported that currently four of the 13 facilities were over capacity. He opined that operating the facilities at levels close to full capacity is advisable given that the State also contracts with private facilities located outside the State to house inmates. Mr. Antrim indicated the chart titled "Inmate Population Statistics," included in the handout, is based on an accurate mathematical model, and the "Institution Activity 1997-2002" bar graph shows the large number, over 30,000, of inmate "bookings" each year. He informed that 20,000 of the bookings involve people new to the Department system. He also pointed out the large number of annual transfers, which he explained as movement between facilities. He compared the amount of bookings and transfers to the Average Daily Count, or static population of 3,055. Mr. Antrim clarified the information on the bar graph for Co-Chair Wilken, showing that in the year 2000, the Department conducted over 30,000 admissions to all facilities, 22,000 transfers between facilities and that the total population was over 3,000. He stated that the average daily count has not changed significantly since no new construction has occurred to increase capacity. Senator Bunde asked why the significant number of transfers is conducted. Mr. Antrim stated that inmate transfers are the Department's effort to "balance accounts" between the overcrowded facilities. He detailed the daily process of analyzing the population of each facility and determining which inmates would be transferred to which locations to ensure each facility remain below its capacity level. He reiterated this is an expensive process. Senator Bunde surmised that the rate of recidivism is considerable given that only 3,000 remain incarcerated. Mr. Antrim agreed the recidivism rate is high. Senator Bunde asked the percentage of inmates booked who are found not guilty or are not sentenced to jail terms. Mr. Antrim stated he would provide the information, noting the number varies each year. He estimated approximately one-third of the bookings are the result of recidivism based on the 20,000 new bookings. Senator Hoffman noted the Department has little control over the number of bookings and the average daily count. He detailed the process by which an inmate at the Bethel facility is transferred to another facility due to overcrowding in Bethel, and subsequently transferred back for each court hearing. He asked the expected reduction of transfers that would result from the proposed construction. Mr. Antrim assured a reduction would occur, although he did not know the exact amount. He explained that a large number of transfers occur between the Bethel area facility and outlying villages and that due to the large percentage of pretrial inmates, those inmates must be transferred to Anchorage to create space for new arrestees. He stated this situation exists in Nome as well. He predicted that additional beds at the two facilities would reduce the number of transfers necessary. Senator Hoffman furthered that the expansion would also allow correctional officers to remain at the facilities rather than accompanying transferring inmates. Mr. Antrim clarified that Alaska State Troopers execute the transfers of pretrial detainees with the expenses incurred by the Department of Public Safety. He indicated that the transfer figures listed in the handout represent both pretrial detainees and other inmates transferred to reduce overcrowding, which the Department of Corrections is responsible for. He noted that the data in the handout is intending to show the institutional activity and that expansion of the Bethel and Nome facilities would result in cost reductions to the Department of Public Safety as well as the Department of Corrections. Senator Taylor asked the percentage of the transfers that are necessary to avoid overcrowding. Mr. Antrim was uncertain and qualified that the number of necessary transfers varies daily. He assured that efforts are made to conduct transfers as "economically possible". He stated that almost half of the inmates housed at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau are from the Anchorage area and are housed in Juneau to make space available in Anchorage for inmates from other outlying areas. He characterized the transfer process as "quite a shell game". Senator Taylor commented on the amount of "juggling" required and the "horrendous" cost of these efforts. He surmised the only solution would be adequate facilities in each community and that construction one or more large facility in one location would not address the issue. He shared that when he served as a judge, he chose community service over incarceration as sentencing to avoid the expense of inmate transfer. Senator Olson asked whether private prisons should be part of the discussion. Senator Bunde asked if the projected inmate population figures take into account the aging of the general population as well as the possibility that the population in Alaska could decline in the event of a discontinuation of the permanent fund dividend program or increased taxation. Mr. Burnett explained that the data utilizes the Department of Labor and Workforce Development demographic statistics as well as further analysis conducted by the Department of Corrections. Mr. Antrim next addressed a bar graph in the handout titled "Comparison of Facilities with Varying Missions" listing the different costs of four existing correctional facilities based on their mission, and another page in the handout, which reads as follows. General Specs Draft CS SB 65 · 1250 beds · 1000 medium custody beds (est.) · 190 close custody beds (est.) · 60 maximum/segregation beds Mr. Antrim spoke to other pages in the handout, which lists the total cost of this legislation as $94.94: $51.36 for operating costs, $22.92 for capital costs and $20.66 "other direct costs", assuming a 25-year term in debt issue. He indicated these figures apply to a proposed facility located in Sutton within the Mat-Su Borough. Senator Taylor asked how the capital costs were determined. Mr. Burnett responded that the amounts are "based on the language of SB 65 that would have the Department entering into a lease for this facility". He clarified that the capital cost would be included in the State's cost and that the estimated capital cost of $22.92 assumes that the total capital cost for a 1250-bed facility is $132 million financed with a revenue bond for 25 years. Mr. Antrim indicated this is detailed on the page titled "Estimated Debt Service." Senator Taylor asked who would own the facility. Mr. Burnett replied that under the provisions of this bill, the facilities would be a lease/purchase arrangement with the State paying the Borough lease and assuming ownership at the end of the lease term. Senator Taylor asked if the Borough would earn a profit from the lease. Mr. Burnett answered it would not. Senator Bunde asked for a breakdown of the "other costs" indicated. Mr. Burnett replied that the earlier referenced "Prison Bed Cost Comparison" spreadsheet details these costs for inmate programs, medical costs, administrative costs and statewide direct costs. Senator Bunde calculated the medical costs at $11.88. Mr. Burnett detailed the estimates of medical staffing levels comparing differed scenarios. Senator B. Stevens asked how the $22.92 capital cost listed on the handout relates to Amendment #1. Mr. Burnett responded that this amount only relates to the proposed facility in the Mat-Su Borough. Senator B. Stevens calculated the daily amount at $30. Mr. Burnett stated he would review the figures, but pointed out the $11,000 limit adopted in the amendment is a maximum amount. Mr. Antrim interjected that the "Estimated Debt Service" spreadsheet calculates $30.62 for a 15-year debt term, and stated that if the term were lengthened, the daily amount would be reduced. Mr. Antrim then referenced the pages titled "Bethel Expansion", "Fairbanks Expansion" and "Anchorage Expansion" as showing justification for the projects. He noted the presence of a Superior Court in Bethel, resulting in a number of pretrial detainees at that location and the United States Marshall's expected increase in the number of federal detainees housed in Anchorage and Juneau. He also indicated diagrams illustrating the expansions in the Fairbanks Correctional Center and the Anchorage Jail. SFC 03 # 55, Side A 10:41 AM JIM LECRONE, Retired Correctional Officer, testified via teleconference from Anchorage, about the dangers of prison overcrowding. DEE HUBBARD, Sterling Resident and Citizen Activist, testified in person in support of this legislation. Senator Olson asked of Mr. Lecrone ever feared for his life as a result of overcrowding. Mr. Lecrone informed that he was stationed in lesser security facilities and although wrestling occurred, he never feared for his life. Senator Olson asked if weapons were therefore not found on inmates. Mr. Lecrone corrected that inmates were found to have weapons and described these weapons. Senator Taylor requested a comparison of the number of escapees and assaults committed by Alaskan inmates at the private prison in Arizona versus public facilities in Alaska. Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.