Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/11/2003 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             SB  65-CORRECTIONAL FACILITY EXPANSION                                                                         
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS announced he  did not  intend to move  SB 65                                                                
from  committee  that day.  Senator  Green  introduced the  bill                                                                
during a  previous hearing  and he asked  if she  had additional                                                                
SENATOR  LYDA  GREEN,  bill   sponsor,  restated  the  need  for                                                                
additional prison  facilities in  the  state. The  proposed plan                                                                
offers  the opportunity  to  add to  existing  facilities, which                                                                
would consolidate services without adding new administration.                                                                   
She  noted  the amounts  referred  to  in  the  letter from  the                                                                
Department of Revenue and the figures shown on the Department of                                                                
Correction  fiscal  note  have   caused  confusion.  She  added,                                                                
"Revenue feels that the state might aught to be the person doing                                                                
the actual  bonding; whereas the communities feel  like they are                                                                
perfectly capable of doing that."                                                                                               
There were no questions for Senator Green.                                                                                      
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  noted there were a  number of people waiting                                                                
to testify.                                                                                                                     
MARY  BOWERY  testified via  teleconference.  She has  extensive                                                                
first  hand  knowledge  of  private  prisons  in  the  state  of                                                                
Tennessee. Following are points regarding a comparative study of                                                                
private and state prisons in Tennessee:                                                                                         
  ·  As per contract, only healthy  inmates were assigned to the                                                                
     private prison                                                                                                             
  · $4,000 medical cap per inmate per year in private prison                                                                    
  ·  Only medium  custody or  lower inmates assigned  to private                                                                
  · State prison required to have an emergency response team                                                                    
  ·  Private prison  was able  to fill  empty beds  with inmates                                                                
     from other states                                                                                                          
  ·  If Tennessee  inmates were  injured  by inmates  from other                                                                
       states, Tennessee was liable for the medical and legal                                                                   
  ·  The state was required to handle an escape from the private                                                                
    prison because the private prison had no legal jurisdiction                                                                 
     to handle the escape. State taxpayers were not reimbursed                                                                  
     for the expense                                                                                                            
  ·  The private  prison had a  turnover rate of 100  percent in                                                                
     two years with 62.9 percent in the first six months                                                                        
  ·  The private prison had more idle inmates because there were                                                                
          fewer jobs for inmates and fewer educational or                                                                       
     rehabilitation opportunities and programs                                                                                  
  ·  The  private  prison  had  increased  incident  reports  of                                                                
     violent acts                                                                                                               
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked  what  position she  held  with  the                                                                
Tennessee prison system.                                                                                                        
MS. BOWERY replied  she was a correctional counselor  III with a                                                                
wide range of jobs including parole work in a 400 inmate housing                                                                
There were no further questions for Ms. Bowery.                                                                                 
MR. FRANK  SMITH testified via  teleconference in support  of SB
65.  He has  worked  in  substance abuse  programs, has  visited                                                                
prisons  the world  over  and is  familiar  with the  facilities                                                                
Senator Green envisions. He advised he  sent the Chair a copy of                                                                
his recently  published chapter  on Native Americans  in private                                                                
The prison proposed in SB  65 is superior to the Whittier option                                                                
because  Sutton  has   far  better  access,   it  addresses  the                                                                
desperately  needed  expansions  to  the  Bethel  and  Fairbanks                                                                
prison,  and it  would present  a  great savings  to  the state.                                                                
Having been involved  in prison research for the  last 30 years,                                                                
he  felt  qualified  to  advise  members of  the  importance  of                                                                
bringing prisoners  closer to  home.  In fact,  "That connection                                                                
with family and  support systems in the  community is absolutely                                                                
the most  important thing in keeping Native  Alaskans from going                                                                
back to jail."                                                                                                                  
The Tennessee  study referred to in  earlier testimony indicated                                                                
that the state saved just  38 cents per prisoner per day. Guards                                                                
in the private  prisons were making very poor  wages compared to                                                                
state correctional officers  while the CEO's  in private prisons                                                                
were making about two thirds of a million dollars.                                                                              
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  announced  individual testimony  would  be                                                                
limited to five minutes.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if  the cost  of  housing  prisoners was                                                                
MR. SMITH replied it is important.                                                                                              
SENATOR   COWDERY   asked   whether  the   State   could   build                                                                
competitively and  why exporting prisoners  rather than building                                                                
in Alaska wasn't an acceptable alternative.                                                                                     
MR. SMITH reiterated the importance of proximity to families for                                                                
inmates.  Also,  training  and   staff  stability  help  in  the                                                                
rehabilitative process and private prisons  have greater than 50                                                                
percent annual staff  turnover compared to less  than 15 percent                                                                
staff turnover in  public prisons. Admittedly it  may be cheaper                                                                
to  house inmates  in private  prisons outside  Alaska,  but the                                                                
conditions  in  some private  prisons  are  deplorable and  some                                                                
private contracts  have been  rescinded due to  poor conditions.                                                                
It's been suggested that moving  prisons to Mexico would be even                                                                
cheaper, but you get what you pay for.                                                                                          
SENATOR COWDERY  asked about  safety and  how many  escapees the                                                                
Arizona prison has had.                                                                                                         
MR. SMITH  cited the example in  which the court  found that six                                                                
Alaskan  inmates were  justified  in escaping  from the  Arizona                                                                
facility to get  away from bad conditions. The  court also found                                                                
the private prison had no legal authority to confine Alaskans in                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY  said  his informal  inmate poll  indicated most                                                                
inmates preferred to remain in Arizona.                                                                                         
MR. SMITH spoke  to an article in the  Anchorage Daily News that                                                                
tracked visiting  rates in  Arizona. It found  just four  of 825                                                                
Alaskan inmates  were getting regular  visits. Also, he  has 150                                                                
pages of affidavits from  Alaskan prisoners who were confined to                                                                
the  Central Arizona Detention  Facility in  Florence describing                                                                
two unimaginable guard riots.                                                                                                   
SENATOR COWDERY  said, "Well I  guess it's  our role to  get the                                                                
best  bang for  the buck  and it's  not our  role to  coddle our                                                                
prisoners  necessarily, but  they got  to be  treated  humane. I                                                                
don't want to waste any more time on this, thank you."                                                                          
There were no further questions of Mr. Smith.                                                                                   
MR. DAVID KATZEEK gave testimony in both Tlingit and English.                                                                   
     This particular bill, whether  it's private or whether                                                                     
     it's public-I would strongly encourage the legislators                                                                     
     to take a look at what  you have in your hands and ask                                                                     
     yourselves a  question. What  will  history say  of me                                                                     
     when I served  in the Legislature and  the majority of                                                                     
     the  people that  have been  placed in  prison  are my                                                                     
     people?  Building  prisons  doesn't really  solve  the                                                                     
     major  problem. Prisons  with  rehabilitative programs                                                                     
     and  projects are  the type  of things  that  can turn                                                                     
     things around.  You're talking about  money. If you're                                                                     
     talking about money then I would encourage you to take                                                                     
     a look  at the recidivism  rate and find  out how much                                                                     
     you're  getting   double  dipped  by   one  particular                                                                     
     prisoner  over and  over  and  over  again. The  other                                                                     
     question I would ask is, Are we living in an addictive                                                                     
     society where  we continue to  do the same  thing over                                                                     
     and over and over and over and over.... and over again                                                                     
     expecting different results  and yet  getting the same                                                                     
     kind of  results over  again? And then  somebody comes                                                                     
     and says, "Let's build another prison."                                                                                    
     Have you  heard a  little baby  crying whose  daddy is                                                                     
     incarcerated and who maybe started off in getting into                                                                     
     trouble by drinking?  Put yourself in  the position of                                                                     
     that  individual. Have  you  heard the  kid  crying in                                                                     
     prison whose grandmother passed away whose grandfather                                                                     
     passed away that  they can't go  and see? I  am not in                                                                     
     favor of  the state  building facilities  where you're                                                                     
     going  to  have  a  state  run  program  where  you're                                                                     
     listening to a  special interest group  and believe me                                                                     
     when I'm saying this, that special interest group will                                                                     
     be following me  and looking at me  because I'm saying                                                                     
     something that's contrary to what the general rule is.                                                                     
     I'm here to plead with you noble people. You are noble                                                                     
     people just like I  am and just like those individuals                                                                     
     that are placed in prison. I ran a brief demonstration                                                                     
     that  I would  call  a beta-tested  program  using our                                                                     
     Tlingit  culture  and  how   we  interacted  with  one                                                                     
     another. I called the prisoners  that I met with-and I                                                                     
     was doing this voluntarily  with respect to the Alaska                                                                     
     Native Brotherhood Camp II-and I  called them Aan Yuxu                                                                   
     Saani. I  called them noble  people. Those individuals                                                                     
     that were  incarcerated went back  to their counselors                                                                     
     and other  people and  said, "You  know what  this guy                                                                     
     called us?  Noble." They  were  white guys.  They were                                                                     
     saying,  "Nobody had  ever  called  us noble  before."                                                                     
     Tears running down their face.  Some of these guys are                                                                     
     now out  providing for  their families and  doing good                                                                     
     work. The point I'm  making to you is building prisons                                                                     
     is not necessarily the solution. Building prisons with                                                                     
     respect to institutions that  will allow us to develop                                                                     
     the  kind of  programs-Why  do I  say  us?  I'm saying                                                                     
     Native people.  When we become  responsible, as Native                                                                     
     people, for  our own people,  we are  beginning to get                                                                     
     healed. So  what  will history  say of  you?  That you                                                                     
     built a  big prison over  in Fairbanks that  didn't do                                                                     
MR.  KATZEEK said this  is  the third  year he  has come  to ask                                                                
legislators to  look beyond  the  bars and  cement to  the human                                                                
beings. Although it  is difficult to talk about  prisons for his                                                                
people, he came  to testify because he loves  his people. He can                                                                
see and feel and understand the  rage of his or any people whose                                                                
traditional lifestyle is so changed, but building bigger prisons                                                                
isn't the  answer. "Look for prisons  that will be  able to meet                                                                
the need  that history will  record that you  had compassion and                                                                
mercy on your fellow man."                                                                                                      
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS thanked  Mr. Katzeek  for his  testimony and                                                                
asked if there were any questions.                                                                                              
SENATOR COWDERY  commented that  about one  third of  the Alaska                                                                
Native inmates  he met in  Arizona had  committed crimes against                                                                
Caucasians and  about  two thirds  had committed  crimes against                                                                
other Alaska Natives. He  said, "A crime is a  crime and you can                                                                
have  compassion but  I,  you  got to  have  compassion for  the                                                                
victims and the victims families too."                                                                                          
MR. KATZEEK  replied he  was pleased  Senator Cowdery  said that                                                                
because  it  "documents  the  frustration  with  respect  to  an                                                                
individual in their community who can't provide with dignity for                                                                
their families."                                                                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY responded, "Whose fault is that now?"                                                                           
MR.  KATZEEK replied  there  are  a variety  of  issues such  as                                                                
subsistence  and  limited  entry  that  make  it  difficult  for                                                                
individuals to provide. To  solve that he would say,  "You are a                                                                
human being and the most  important thing in being a human being                                                                
is to  be able  to listen  attentively to  your spirit,  to your                                                                
heart, to  your sole, to your  mind. And work from  being who we                                                                
are  as  people.  That  doesn't  forgive the  person  for  doing                                                                
something that's wrong. That's acknowledging a human being, like                                                                
you acknowledged  me today. I  really appreciate it  because you                                                                
recognized  me, you  acknowledged  me and  you  accepted me.  It                                                                
doesn't mean that you agree  with what I'm saying, but the honor                                                                
of letting  me sit here  regardless of where  I come from  or my                                                                
background  is  a  principle   in  any  human  relationship  and                                                                
There were no further questions for Mr. Katzeek.                                                                                
CHAIR GARY STEVENS called Ron Swanson to testify.                                                                               
MR. RON  SWANSON, community development director  for the Mat-Su                                                                
Borough,  testified the  borough  assembly  passed a  resolution                                                                
supporting municipal  owner state  operated prisons  on February                                                                
18,  2003. The  development  of newer  and  expanded prisons  in                                                                
Alaska  municipalities  would   benefit  Alaskans  by  providing                                                                
construction  and  permanent  year  around  prison  jobs.  Also,                                                                
housing  prisoners in  the  state would  allow  prisoners to  be                                                                
closer  to   their  families  and  culture   and  would  enhance                                                                
The  Mat-Su Borough  has  three correctional  facilities with  a                                                                
total of 585 beds. The Palmer Correction Facility at Sutton, the                                                                
Mat-Su  Pretrial Facility  in  Palmer, and  the  Point MacKenzie                                                                
Facility have provided stable and well paying jobs for Alaskans.                                                                
The  Sutton Facility would  be  expanded to  1,200 beds  and was                                                                
originally  planned and  constructed with  enough  land for  the                                                                
expansion. The combination of the prison expansion, an increased                                                                
recreation and tourism base at  Hatcher Pass, and a new regional                                                                
hospital and mental health  facility would diversify the borough                                                                
The Department of Corrections would operate the facilities under                                                                
long-term lease agreements with  local boroughs and cities. Tax-                                                                
exempt revenue bonds would be used to finance the facilities and                                                                
would be secured by  assignment of lease payments payable to the                                                                
boroughs  and cities.  Bond proceeds  would be  used  to finance                                                                
construction and  expense to  issue the  bonds. The  state would                                                                
have  responsibility   for  design   and  construction   of  the                                                                
facilities through construction management agreements. As owners                                                                
of the  facilities, cities  and boroughs would  accept liability                                                                
not covered by insurance.                                                                                                       
There were no questions asked of Mr. Swanson.                                                                                   
MR.  RONALD WILSON  stated  he  has been  a  state employee  and                                                                
corrections officer for  over 19 years, but  he was representing                                                                
himself.  He  said private  prisons  have  not  proven they  can                                                                
provide  correctional services  more cheaply  than  their public                                                                
counterpart and  any private  prison cost savings  comes through                                                                
reduced staff expenses. Public employees have background checks,                                                                
psychological  evaluations,  attend and  pass  the  correctional                                                                
officer   academy,  and   meet  Alaska   Pay   Standard  Council                                                                
requirements. He  asked, "If your  going to place twice  as many                                                                
inmates  in one  facility  as  you have  ever  done before,  why                                                                
wouldn't  you  want the  staff  in  that  facility to  meet  the                                                                
requirements that [correction] officers now have to meet?"                                                                      
SIDE B                                                                                                                          
4:25 pm                                                                                                                         
He quoted  findings from several studies  that indicated private                                                                
prisons  did  not  measure   favorably  compared  to  state  run                                                                
facilities and outlined specific examples of private failures in                                                                
There were no questions asked of Mr. Wilson.                                                                                    
MR. DANIEL  COLANG expressed support for  SB 65. He  said he has                                                                
been employed by Department of Corrections for eleven years, but                                                                
the views expressed were his own.                                                                                               
His father,  a World  War II  veteran, always encouraged  him to                                                                
vote because thousands  of Americans died on  the battlefield to                                                                
safeguard  that  right.  Because  Alaskans  have  voted  against                                                                
private prisons two times, he  asked the committee to honor that                                                                
There were no questions asked of Mr. Colang.                                                                                    
MR.  DEAN  RAND,  long  term  Whittier resident,  testified  via                                                                
teleconference that  he was not  in favor of  locating a private                                                                
prison in Whittier.                                                                                                             
CHAIR GARY STEVENS advised the committee was hearing SB 65.                                                                     
MR. RAND  said he  realized that and  he just wanted  members to                                                                
have a  more accurate picture regarding the  amount of community                                                                
support  for  a  private  prison  in Whittier  because,  Cornell                                                                
Company  has   "steamrolled  into  and  over   the  citizens  of                                                                
Whittier." Community support for a private prison in Whittier is                                                                
"questionable at best."                                                                                                         
There was no further testimony on SB 65.                                                                                        
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS announced he  would hold SB 65  in committee                                                                
until Thursday. If members agreed, it  was his intention to move                                                                
the bill from committee at that time.                                                                                           
SENATOR GUESS asked whether public testimony was closed or would                                                                
it be taken on Thursday.                                                                                                        
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS advised public  testimony could be  given on                                                                

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