Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205

02/02/2015 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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01:33:12 PM Start
01:33:49 PM Overview: Alaska Criminal Justice Commission
02:21:43 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled:
<Above Item Removed from Agenda>
Overview and Information: Alaska Criminal
Justice Commission
Susanne DiPietro, Executive Director, Alaska
Judicial Council
Nancy Meade, General Counsel, Alaska Court System
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        February 2, 2015                                                                                        
                           1:33 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Lesil McGuire, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator John Coghill, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
Senator Peter Micciche                                                                                                          
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
OVERVIEW: ALASKA CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMISSION                                                                                    
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SUSANNE DIPIETRO, Executive Director                                                                                            
Alaska Judicial Council                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:                                                                                                           
NANCY MEADE, General Counsel                                                                                                    
Administrative Staff                                                                                                            
Office of the Administrative Director                                                                                           
Alaska Court System                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided the Court System perspective about                                                               
the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission.                                                                                         
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:33:12 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LESIL MCGUIRE called the Senate Judiciary Standing                                                                      
Committee meeting to order at 1:33 p.m. Present at the call to                                                                  
order  were Senators  Costello, Wielechowski,  Coghill, Micciche,                                                               
and Chair McGuire.                                                                                                              
^Overview: Alaska Criminal Justice Commission                                                                                   
          Overview: Alaska Criminal Justice Commission                                                                      
1:33:49 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE  announced the business before  the committee would                                                               
be an  overview of  the Alaska  Criminal Justice  Commission. She                                                               
explained  that  Senator Coghill  began  work  last year  through                                                               
Senate  Bill 64  to rethink  the approach  for treating  criminal                                                               
activities  in the  state.  A  driving force  was  expense and  a                                                               
report  that indicated  that based  on the  current incarceration                                                               
rates, the state  would need another Goose Creek  Prison by 2025.                                                               
She  added that  this hearing  is  in anticipation  of the  Smart                                                               
Justice summit on February 25.                                                                                                  
1:36:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SUSANNE  DIPIETRO, Executive  Director,  Alaska Judicial  Council                                                               
(AJC), opened her  comments with the explanation  that AJC staffs                                                               
the  Alaska  Criminal  Justice   Commission  (ACJC)  and  she  is                                                               
speaking in that capacity in place  of the chair of ACJC, retired                                                               
chief justice Alex Bryner, who is unable to attend.                                                                             
She reminded  members that ACJC  was established on July  1, 2014                                                               
as  part  of  the  omnibus   crime  bill,  Senate  Bill  64.  The                                                               
commission  was envisioned  as  an entity  that  could study  the                                                               
criminal   justice   system    and   make   recommendations   for                                                               
improvements to the legislature and administration.                                                                             
MS.  DIPIETRO directed  attention to  a handout  listing all  the                                                               
statutes relating  to the Alaska Criminal  Justice Commission and                                                               
provided a  detailed review of  AS 44.19.645 - Powers  and duties                                                               
of the commission  and AS 44.19.646 -  Methodology. She explained                                                               
that the  commission is comprised  of 13 members who  represent a                                                               
variety of perspectives including  three judges, law enforcement,                                                               
corrections,  prosecutors,   victims,  defense   counsel,  Alaska                                                               
Native  and   rural,  and  behavioral  and   mental  health.  Two                                                               
legislators serve as non-voting members.                                                                                        
CHAIR  MCGUIRE  highlighted  the  work  Senator  Ellis  has  done                                                               
partnering with Senator Coghill.                                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL added that former  Senators Dyson and French also                                                               
played key roles.                                                                                                               
1:43:36 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  DIPIETRO  reported  that the  commission  is  energized  and                                                               
decided  to  meet  monthly  rather  than four  times  a  year  as                                                               
required by statute.  The full commission has met  five times and                                                               
has another  meeting scheduled  for the end  of February.  At the                                                               
organizational meeting,  the commissioners identified  key topics                                                               
then formed  workgroups to focus  on those areas.  The workgroups                                                               
have been meeting twice a month since September.                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL spoke  of the work he and Senator  Ellis did last                                                               
year  advocating  for  the  former  governor  to  sign  a  letter                                                               
formally asking  to partner  with the  Pew Charitable  Trusts and                                                               
MacArthur  Foundation  through  the Pew-MacArthur  Results  First                                                               
Initiative.  The governor  did not  sign the  letter, but  he and                                                               
Senator Ellis feel  strongly about the value  of this partnership                                                               
and will try again this year, working with the new governor.                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO stated  that the commission supports  the effort and                                                               
believes the  timing is  right. Citing  the three  percent annual                                                               
rise  in  the  prison  population, she  said  the  commission  is                                                               
committed  to looking  at what  other  states have  done and  the                                                               
research findings  from Right  On Crime and  Smart Justice  in an                                                               
effort to bend the curve  on rising incarceration rates. She said                                                               
the  commission   would  appreciate  some   technical  assistance                                                               
because  it  requires  a complicated  analysis  to  get  detailed                                                               
information about what things are driving the prison population.                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO  noted  that  the  Department  of  Corrections  has                                                               
reported that  up to 40  percent of people occupying  hard prison                                                               
beds  are un-sentenced  offenders. The  Pre- and  Post-trial Laws                                                               
and  Processes  workgroup  is  looking  at  that  large  pretrial                                                               
population to see if the people  who have not been convicted of a                                                               
crime can be removed from a  hard bed and monitored in some other                                                               
way. That workgroup is looking at  the laws and practices on bail                                                               
and  bail monitoring  and later  on  will look  at the  probation                                                               
revocation process.                                                                                                             
1:49:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO explained that the  Barriers to Reentry workgroup is                                                               
looking  at  whether  people  who  come  out  of  prison  can  be                                                               
supported in  such a way that  they are less likely  to return to                                                               
their  old behaviors  and be  reconvicted. As  it turns  out, the                                                               
barriers  to  successful  reentry   are  numerous;  some  may  be                                                               
The  Sentencing Alternatives  workgroup is  looking at  potential                                                               
alternatives  to  the  typical  sentencing.  The  Rural  Criminal                                                               
Justice   workgroup   was   formed    in   recognition   of   the                                                               
disproportionate rural  and Alaska  Native population  in prison.                                                               
It infuses the  other groups to ensure that the  things the other                                                               
groups are recommending  will work in the rural areas  as well as                                                               
in the  urban areas.  The Classification  of Crimes  workgroup is                                                               
looking  at felony  and misdemeanor  conduct  and the  particular                                                               
sentence within a range that is imposed for a certain crime.                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL highlighted  the issue  of mandatory  sentencing                                                               
and the practical outplay in light of subsequent court cases.                                                                   
SENATOR COSTELLO asked if other states have access to this data.                                                                
MS.  DIPIETRO said  the Judicial  Council  has done  a number  of                                                               
sentencing  studies  and   it  is  more  difficult   to  get  the                                                               
information  than one  would hope.  She could  not speak  to what                                                               
other states have done.                                                                                                         
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked if  the commission has  plans to  look at                                                               
the issue of deaths in pretrial facilities.                                                                                     
MS. DIPIETRO  replied she  had not  heard the  commission discuss                                                               
that issue.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  MCGUIRE  advised   that  she  intends  to   have  the  new                                                               
commissioner of  the Department of Corrections  (DOC) come before                                                               
the committee to talk about that  and other issues that have come                                                               
forward from constituents.                                                                                                      
1:55:20 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO  returned to  the data  issue that  Senator Costello                                                               
alluded to.  She explained that  the type of analysis  that would                                                               
be  helpful  to  the  commission's   work  is  sophisticated  and                                                               
requires  substantial  resources.  Their  work  would  move  more                                                               
quickly  with assistance.  The staff  did some  research and  the                                                               
commission reached  out to a  number of  charitable organizations                                                               
and foundations  that are active  in the Smart Justice  and Right                                                               
on  Crime,  providing  technical assistance  and  research.  They                                                               
currently are pursuing  two programs. The first  is a partnership                                                               
with  the  Pew Charitable  Trusts  and  the MacArthur  Foundation                                                               
through   the  Pew-MacArthur   Results  First   Initiative.  This                                                               
partnership   would    provide   capacity    building   technical                                                               
assistance. A team would come to  Alaska for a year and provide a                                                               
statistical  model  into  which   state-specific  data  would  be                                                               
entered.  The model  uses software  developed  by the  Washington                                                               
State Institute  for Public  Policy (WSIPP)  to analyze  the cost                                                               
benefits of  certain programs.  For example,  it can  analyze the                                                               
return  on investment  for every  dollar put  into an  electronic                                                               
monitoring program.  The sole goal  of the initiative is  to give                                                               
states the  technical ability to  use this software and  give the                                                               
information to  policy makers  to do  with as  they see  fit. She                                                               
noted that a Results First  team is tentatively available the end                                                               
of February to talk to stakeholders in Alaska.                                                                                  
1:58:14 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE  asked why the  former governor was  hesitant to                                                               
ask  for  assistance  from  the Pew  Charitable  Trusts  and  the                                                               
MacArthur Foundation.                                                                                                           
SENATOR COGHILL  speculated that the  past governor felt  the Pew                                                               
Charitable Trusts had  a liberal bent. He added that  he feels so                                                               
strongly that  Alaska would  benefit from  a partnership  on this                                                               
issue  that he  sent a  staff member  to a  conference to  gather                                                               
information. Alaska has  unique challenges, but Pew  has shown it                                                               
can work with those unique challenges, he said.                                                                                 
1:59:57 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  DIPIETRO said  she cannot  comment  on Pew  in general,  but                                                               
their  technical assistance  in this  particular area  appears to                                                               
embrace all perspectives and be evidence-based.                                                                                 
SENATOR  COSTELLO  asked  if  the  commission  has  reviewed  the                                                               
[Department  of  Corrections]  audit  and if  it  is  a  valuable                                                               
MS.  DIPIETRO  replied  she and  the  commission  staff  attorney                                                               
reviewed  it and  found it  has a  lot of  good information.  She                                                               
could not speak to whether the commission members have read it.                                                                 
She  advised  that  the  commission  is  also  seeking  technical                                                               
assistance for the Pew funded  Justice Reinvestment Initiative. A                                                               
team of  statisticians and analysts go  to a state and  perform a                                                               
very sophisticated  analysis of the prison  population data. They                                                               
are then able  to tell policy makers what things  are driving the                                                               
prison  population  and what  has  worked  in other  states  with                                                               
similar profiles.  It is up  to the state  to decide if  it makes                                                               
sense to  do the same  thing. She highlighted that  the important                                                               
point to  get the  process started  is for the  state to  issue a                                                               
formal partnership invitation.                                                                                                  
SENATOR COGHILL  added that the  request needs to come  from both                                                               
the legislative and executive branches.                                                                                         
2:04:09 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DIPIETRO suggested members visit  the Alaska Judicial Council                                                               
website and  scroll down to view  the ACJC page and  the resource                                                               
SENATOR COSTELLO asked if there  is a deadline for requesting the                                                               
SENATOR  COGHILL replied  sooner  is better.  He  added that  the                                                               
number  of voting  members on  the commission  was kept  small to                                                               
facilitate   decision   making,   but   input   from   department                                                               
commissioners is valuable.                                                                                                      
SENATOR MICCICHE asked if there  are obvious outliers about doing                                                               
business in Alaska.                                                                                                             
MS. DIPIETRO replied there are  probably a handful of things that                                                               
could be efficacious,  but there's not anybody  who is completely                                                               
sure that they have something that will turn the curve.                                                                         
2:10:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MCGUIRE expressed support  for continuing the dialog over                                                               
the next two years.                                                                                                             
SENATOR COGHILL  related that the  24/7 program is  just standing                                                               
up and will provide valuable data.                                                                                              
CHAIR MCGUIRE recognized Nancy Meade.                                                                                           
2:12:02 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY  MEADE, General  Counsel, Administrative  Staff, Office  of                                                               
the  Administrative Director,  Alaska Court  System, stated  that                                                               
she is  not a  member of the  Alaska Criminal  Justice Commission                                                               
but  she  attends the  meetings  so  she  has background  on  the                                                               
legislation and  is able to help  the legislature as it  does its                                                               
analysis  of   the  bills.  She   explained  that  she   is  also                                                               
responsible within  the Court System  for implementing  the bills                                                               
that come out of the  legislature so it's important to understand                                                               
where they came from and the intent.                                                                                            
She advised that in accordance  with the authorizing legislation,                                                               
the chief justice  appointed three judges to  the commission. The                                                               
first  is former  chief  justice Alex  Bryner.  He retired  after                                                               
serving 27  years on  the bench,  17 of which  was on  the Alaska                                                               
Court of  Appeals. In  Alaska, that  court handles  only criminal                                                               
matters so he brings unique  experience to the commission. He was                                                               
elected to be  chair. Superior Court Judge Trevor  Stevens is the                                                               
second  appointment. He  has been  a  judge in  Ketchikan for  14                                                               
years and  before that he  was a  public defender and  a district                                                               
attorney.  He  has  a  tremendous  breadth  of  knowledge.  Judge                                                               
Stephanie Rhoades is  the third appointment. She has  been on the                                                               
district court in  Anchorage for 22 years and  is responsible for                                                               
establishing one  of the first  therapeutic courts in  the state.                                                               
She  has received  awards  for her  work  on therapeutic  courts,                                                               
alternative  justice, and  in particular  her interest  in mental                                                               
health.  She  is able  to  think  outside  the  box and  is  very                                                               
efficient at getting things done.                                                                                               
At  the fall  statewide  judicial training  conference the  three                                                               
judges introduced themselves as  commissioners and invited input.                                                               
All  judges  now  know  about the  commission  and  are  offering                                                               
topical  suggestions.  She related  that  the  court is  actively                                                               
supporting the  commission and  took the  unusual step  last year                                                               
during the  deliberations of  Senate Bill  64 and  supported this                                                               
portion of the  bill. The Supreme Court asked her  to express its                                                               
optimism about a  commission like this and how valuable  it is to                                                               
periodically  study  and  review  all  aspects  of  the  criminal                                                               
justice system to identify areas for improvement.                                                                               
MS. MEADE  said her final point  is that the court  is interested                                                               
in all recommendations  that may come out of  the commission that                                                               
directly  impact the  court. That  includes suggestion  for bills                                                               
and also  suggestions for changes  to the court rules,  which the                                                               
Supreme Court can consider and implement.                                                                                       
2:17:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  highlighted the  judges' full calendars  and the                                                               
advantages of the Court System's robust computer system.                                                                        
MS. MEADE confirmed that through  the CourtView system, the court                                                               
often has the best data available  on court cases. She added that                                                               
she  agrees with  Ms. DiPietro  that system-wide,  evidence-based                                                               
data could be improved upon.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MCGUIRE  thanked  the  presenters  and  said  she  looks                                                               
forward to continuing the dialog.                                                                                               
2:21:43 PM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair McGuire  adjourned the Senate Judiciary  Standing Committee                                                               
meeting at 2:21 p.m.