Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/19/2004 08:05 AM JUD
* 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, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), told members that SB 340 proposes changes to the juvenile delinquency and alcohol statutes to align with the federal requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), with respect to holding juveniles in adult jails and juvenile justice facilities. SB 340 prohibits the state from putting juveniles who have not committed a crime in either an adult or juvenile correctional facility solely for their own correction. Current Alaska statute allows DHSS to place a juvenile in an adult jail when a juvenile is severely intoxicated or mentally ill and might pose a danger to self or others. One concern is that locking up juveniles who have not committed a crime is not best practice. The second concern is that Alaska statute is out of compliance with federal requirements, which impacts federal funding. She emphasized that SB 340 will not impact DHSS's ability to hold juveniles who have been charged with a delinquent offense while awaiting transportation to an appropriate juvenile facility. DHSS has had a range of non- secure shelters across the state for well over a decade. The non-secure shelters allow DHSS to provide a safe place for a young person until a parent or guardian is located. Non-secure shelters are located in Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Ketchikan, Valdez and Sitka. DHSS is in the midst of expanding the non-secure shelter array to Anchorage, Barrow, Wrangell, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Emmonak, and Hooper Bay and recently signed a provider agreement in the Mat-Su Valley as well. MS. WARE asserted that DHSS has been working in close partnership with the Alaska State Troopers and Department of Public Safety (DPS) to address this concern. The changes made at the federal level occurred this past October. She offered to answer questions. SENATOR FRENCH asked if DHSS currently maintains separate facilities across the state for juveniles who are intoxicated and mentally ill but who have not committed any crimes. MS. WARE answered that it does; the facilities are run by grantees of DHSS, primarily non-profit organizations. SENATOR FRENCH asked what happens in communities with no such facilities. MS. WARE said a juvenile would be held at an adult jail, which is allowed by statute. She noted even if SB 340 passes and it becomes illegal to hold a juvenile in an adult jail, the federal government recognizes that states face significant challenges in meeting the requirements of the federal act. Therefore, each state is allowed a certain number of violations. TAPE 04-22, SIDE B SENATOR OGAN noted it is illegal for a minor to use a controlled substance. He expressed concern that the state could be opening itself to liability if a juvenile can't be incarcerated until he or she sobers up and cools off. MS. WARE responded that law enforcement could charge a juvenile who is violent and acting out with a criminal offense, thereby allowing DHSS to incarcerate the juvenile in an adult jail in a rural community. SB 340 addresses those juveniles who are intoxicated and in what is referred to as "protective custody hold." They have not acted out to the point they should be held in jail. SENATOR FRENCH questioned whether a minor in possession offense is a "jailable" offense. MS. WARE told members that minor in possession and minor consuming offenses are considered to be status offenses that are handled in district court as opposed to superior court. SENATOR FRENCH acknowledged they are infractions with a $300 fine. MS. WARE said, in terms of the federal JJPD Act, that would be a violation because the state would be incarcerating status offenders as opposed to delinquents. SENATOR FRENCH maintained that SB 340 will help the state retain $700,000 of federal money but the fiscal note shows no state money will be appropriated to increase the number of non-secure facilities in the state. MS. WARE indicated that DHSS has requested general funds in the FY 04 budget for non-secure shelters. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if SB 340 will cause DHSS to change its current procedures. MS. WARE answered: Mr. Chairman, yes and no in that we've already been working on this for quite some time. What this will do is cement the fact that our state statutes will be in alignment with federal statutes but we've been working hard on this, frankly, for many, many years. What this does force us to do is be much more pro-active and focused in terms of our alignment with essentially core stakeholders across the state. So, for example, when the change came down, and I think this is probably one of the best examples, in Bethel, for fiscal year 2003, 25 percent of our detention admissions in our own juvenile facility were related to protective custody holds. Once we realized that the feds were going to change the requirement, we worked hard with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. So now, instead of law enforcement bringing those kids to our juvenile facility, they go to a hospital bed managed by YK, which is both more appropriate for that juvenile and reduces our overcrowding and also means that he or she can be plugged into appropriate behavioral health services. They're also managed by YK. And we've been doing that in other parts of the state as well. So Fairbanks, at the local level, has been working with law enforcement and our staff and other service providers and they've got, I believe this just happened last week, six pre-treatment de-tox beds that FNA Behavioral Health Services is putting on line to address some of the concerns related to loss of alternatives in a juvenile justice setting. CHAIR SEEKINS affirmed that DHSS already has a process in place that it is following where possible and SB 340 will cause DHSS to follow that procedure in every case. SENATOR FRENCH asked if DHSS ever uses private homes as safe houses in smaller communities. MS. WARE said she believes law enforcement gets pretty creative but DHSS does not have specific safe houses in identified communities. She added she does not want to overstate the level of the problem. DHSS has adult jails or lock-ups in about 138 communities. The violation sites number 23. Therefore, while DHSS faces a challenge every day in terms of the sites where alternatives must be provided, the number of those sites is small. SENATOR FRENCH asked if a violation site has no facility available for juveniles. MS. WARE replied, "A violation site is a site where yes, there may not be alternatives, but for a range of reasons, either due to turnover at the VPSO level, a whole bunch of factors, we end up fairly regularly putting a kid in an adult jail." CHAIR SEEKINS announced that we would hold SB 340 in committee and adjourned the meeting at 9:00 a.m.