Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/08/1995 01:59 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJUD - 3/8/95 SB 67 UNLAWFUL EVASIONS CLASS A MISDEMEANOR SENATOR ELLIS, sponsor of SB 67, explained the bill is companion legislation to a bill introduced by Representative Brown in response to concerns of people running half-way houses and people living in the vicinity of half-way houses. Currently there is a two-tiered penalty approach to people who are guilty of unlawful evasion, or walking away from a half-way house facility. Felons who walk away are charged with a class A misdemeanor, and misdemeanor offenders in half-way houses are charged with a class B misdemeanor for the same offense. SB 67 changes the offense to a class A misdemeanor for all offenders and carries a maximum one year prison sentence, and a maximum $5,000 fine. The class B misdemeanor conviction is not providing enough incentive to prevent people from walking away from half-way houses, and is not a priority among prosecutors. The misdemeanor offenders are drunk drivers or drug abusers, and documented cases show these people have committed serious offenses after unlawful evasion. SENATOR TAYLOR announced Ruth Moulton, who was planning to testify via teleconference from Fairbanks, supports SB 67. TAPE 95-11, SIDE B CATHERINE PETKOFF, representing AllVest Incorporated (ABI), a residential center with over 400 residents, testified in support of SB 67. She stated AVI houses both felons and misdemeanants, and after housing thousands of offenders since 1985, AVI strongly believes appropriate sanctions are necessary to prevent residents from walking away from the resident program. She explained the conditions classifying a "walk-away" and provided statistics on the number of walkaways in the last four years. She stated misdemeanant offenders are more likely to violate program rules as they consider the minimum sanctions as an acceptable consequence. She added 26 offenders have walked away from residential facilities between October 1, 1994 to February 28, 1995; 11 were misdemeanants. She noted these programs are not only cost effective for incarcerating offenders, but also offer the opportunity for successful transition from institutional living by allowing residents to gain employment, develop community support services, and return something to the community through the participation in work service prior to their release. In these programs, residents only gain privileges after they have demonstrated responsible behavior and accept responsibility for their actions. PETE ROBERTS testified via teleconference in support of SB 67. He asked whether offenders would no longer be required to honor the provisions of parole, for example restitution, after they recommit. He asked if the offender may be trading the consequences of walking away for the consequences of a previous crime. SENATOR TAYLOR did not believe so, and commented the second offense would most likely draw attention to the fact that the conditions of the first offense had not been met. MR. ROBERTS recounted a situation in which arson was committed on his vehicle, as well as others. The offender is required to pay restitution. The prison official handling the case stated that if the offender committed a new crime upon release, the new sentence would overrule the conditions of parole. SENATOR TAYLOR doubted that would be the case. ALAN TESCE testified in support of SB 67. He explained he lives three-quarters of a mile of 98 percent of all of the half-way houses in Anchorage. He noted with the increased concentration of half-way house beds in the downtown area, he expects the number of walk-aways to rise. He felt passage of SB 67 would act as a deterrent. He discussed testimony before a South [indisc.] Community Council. The providers of half-way houses do not have any responsibility to the state or neighborhoods for criminal actions or any other actions committed by walk-aways once the operator of the half-way house has notified the police. SENATOR TAYLOR responded the restriction on the ability to file a civil suit against a half-way house for negligence is known as tort reform. Number 493 GERALD BAILEY, Program Director of Gastineau Human Services (GHS), testified in support of SB 67. He pointed out that GHS has been holding misdemeanants at their facilities since 1991. Misdemeanants are more likely to walk away than felons; one reason being that the sanctions are not as restrictive for misdemeanants. The City and Borough of Juneau changed a city ordinance at GHS's request to strengthen the charges; this has had a significant impact in decreasing the number of walk-aways. SENATOR ADAMS moved SB 67 out of committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR TAYLOR objected to make the following comment, "In my previous experience and life as a judge, when you sentenced somebody to a halfway house, you were kind of giving them a break and hoping they would learn something from it. To have people walk away, and there to be no teeth, and there to be a system that was so hidebound with paperwork that you could never get an officer to go and start looking for them to bring them back was always very frustrating, so I really applaud the sponsor for bringing this forward. I remove any objection I have, and wish the bill well, and it moves from committee." SB 67 was moved out of committee with individual recommendations.