Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/03/2004 01:38 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 340-DETENTION OF MINORS MS. PATTY WARE, Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS), testified that SB 340 modifies the delinquency as well as the alcohol and mental health statutes. It prohibits the placement of minors in a jail or secure facility - including a secure justice facility solely related to protective custody - due to mental illness, disability, intoxication or incapacitation by alcohol or drugs. She emphasized that this does not impact the department's ability to hold juvenile offenders who are accused of a delinquent or criminal offense in an adult jail or juvenile facility, but relates to kids being held due to protective custody concerns related to intoxication or mental illness. She clarified, "so we will continue to provide accountability and hold juvenile offenders accountable, and protect the community." MS. WARE said the bill is a requirement for DHSS/DJJ to be in compliance with the most recent reauthorization of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which went into effect on October 1, 2003. As background, she said the division currently receives approximately $700,000 annually in a formula grant that is used for an array of services for juveniles across the state. As a recipient of those funds, the state is required to be in compliance with core requirements of that act. She outlined the requirements, beginning with adherence to deinstitutionalization of status offenders and non- offenders. For purposes of this legislation, juveniles who are in a locked facility for protective custody purposes are considered to be non-offenders because they have not committed a crime. MS. WARE continued that there must also be separation of juveniles from adult offenders in institutions. In those instances where it is allowable to hold juvenile offenders in adult jails or lockup [facilities], juveniles must be held separately - both in sight and sound - from adult offenders. Also, regarding removing juveniles from adult jails and lockup facilities, there are certain circumstances where states are allowed to hold juvenile offenders in adult jails. Given the geographic challenges in Alaska, this is allowable if the juvenile is an accused offender. Lastly, reducing over- representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system; there are no numerical requirements and the state is currently in compliance with that particular core mandate. MS. WARE said Alaska is currently out of compliance with the numerical requirements of the Act, and has been notified that the state will lose 40 percent of federal funds related to the federal grant year for the FFY 2004 grant award. SB 340 allows for seeking reinstatement of 20 percent of that loss of federal funding. From the federal policy perspective, in addition to Alaska's violation rates being too high, Alaska has not shown that it's in the best interest of kids to not hold juveniles in a locked setting when they haven't committed a crime. However, she emphasized that it is in the best interest of kids and said, "We should not be putting a juvenile in an adult or a juvenile jail when they have not committed a delinquent offense." MS. WARE said there are alternatives for young people who are severely incapacitated. The state has a fairly robust array of non-secure shelters. These are alternatives provided by non- profit agencies. Through the federal grant, money is provided to eight different agencies that in turn provide services to ten different communities in the state. Those existing non-secure shelter communities are located in Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai (serving Kenai, Seward, and Homer), Kodiak, Ketchikan, Valdez, Sitka, Barrow, and Wrangell. She said work is being done to expand the array of non-secure shelters. An agreement has recently been signed to provide for a non-secure shelter alternative in the Mat-Su Borough. Also, work is being done to provide shelter services in: Anchorage, Barrow, Wrangell, Dillingham, Emmonak, Hooper Bay, and Kotzebue. MS. WARE said the expansion of non-secure shelters is one alternative for this population, and communities with high violation rates are being targeted; it is a resource allocation decision based on data. She told members that there are many stakeholders both in the state and the non-profit sector who have stepped up to the plate. She mentioned the Bethel Youth Facility as an example. In FY 03, 25 percent of the detention admissions were Title 47 admissions, involving either protective custody alcohol or mental health. Because Bethel Youth Facility has worked closely with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC), when a Title 47 juvenile is brought in, he/she is brought to a hospital bed that is managed by YKHC. This situation is both helpful and a more appropriate use of resources as it helps to reduce over-crowding at a youth facility and is more appropriate from the standpoint of treatment for that young person's needs. Based on an evaluation and assessment, a young person can be referred to a wide array of behavioral health interventions that YKHC can provide. Ms. Ware concluded by saying the division works closely with state and local law enforcement, the troopers and DPS. Training materials and information will need to continue to be developed so that troopers are clear on what can and cannot be done regarding this change in statute. MR. AL STOREY, Lieutenant, Division of Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety (DPS), added that DPS has talked repeatedly with Ms. Ware about this topic and supports her position. He mentioned that there is a firm commitment from DPS to provide training and training materials so that troopers understand limitations. DPS is also working with the local police department, furthering an understanding of the requirements for compliance. He said for the most part, business is already conducted as required. There have been some violations, as articulated by Ms. Ware, and he doesn't know if those violations were done by the local police department or the troopers, but DPS and DJJ are working towards resolving those issues to properly manage juvenile Title 47 people and to be in compliance with the federal requirements that already exist. CHAIR DYSON asked what his specific assignment or responsibility is. LIEUTENANT STOREY replied that he works on the director's staff for the state troopers and was the legislative liaison. CHAIR DYSON asked if Lieutenant Storey has had personal experience working with young people who would be affected by this action. LIEUTENANT STOREY said he hasn't worked in the uniformed section for several years; the bulk of his career has been in the drug and alcohol portion. The last uniformed patrol he worked was in the Palmer area, and he did have some intoxicated juveniles to deal with and also some mental health situations. He said he has discussed this issue with Captain [John] Glick, Commander of the C Detachment (covering most of western rural Alaska), who has assured him that the state strives to comply with these federal requirements. He said DPS works closely with OCS [Office of Children's Services] and DJJ to ensure proper management of the juvenile processes. There are a fair number of intoxicated juveniles to deal with in the Bethel area, certainly in Kotzebue, Dillingham, as well as mental health issues in those areas. SENATOR LYDA GREEN asked if essentially this bill would fulfill federal requirement, to comport with re-authorization. CHAIR DYSON commented, "And [it] brings our law into conformity with our practice. Is that right?" MS. WARE said this was correct. SENATOR GREEN commented that this did not provide for new facilities or hospital beds. MS. WARE confirmed this was also correct. CHAIR DYSON said, as an aside, he was responsible for starting an audit about a year ago "on the kingdom over which you now preside" and said he would like to have a conversation with Ms. Ware at her convenience - perhaps during the middle of this month - about the problems, audit responses, and the department's response. CHAIR DYSON asked for the wish of the committee. SENATOR GREEN moved to report SB 340 out of committee with individual recommendations and [attached] fiscal notes. CHAIR DYSON asked if there was any objection. There being none, it was so ordered.