Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/10/2003 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 85-REPEAT SERIOUS SEX OFFENSES CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked Senator French to introduce the bill. SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH, bill sponsor, paraphrased from the sponsor statement: CS SB 85 has two purposes: first, to increase the penalties for repeat sex offenders and, second, to add repeat sexual offenders to the list of those who are not eligible to earn a "good time" reduction of their terms. SB 85 is designed to treat repeat sex offenders differently from other repeat felons. Research has shown that sexual offenders are not like other offenders. As noted in a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) research report on managing adult sex offenders, sex crimes flourish in secrecy. Many offenders are otherwise highly functioning and use their social skills to commit their crimes and to manipulate both victims and criminal justice officials. Offenders are often very accomplished at presenting a façade designed to hide the truth about themselves. Many sex offenders commit a wide range and large number of sexually deviant acts during their lives and show a continued propensity to offend. The NIJ study concludes that adult offenders who commit sex crimes should be managed, treated, and supervised differently from other criminals. Current statutory guidelines in Alaska, however, treat all two-time felons as though they were the same, that is, all prior felony convictions are given equal weight when an individual is sentenced on a new offense. For example, a judge sentencing a person convicted of a second forgery or a second sexual offense has to operate under the same sentencing guidelines. SB 85 establishes a separate, and more stringent, set of sentencing guidelines for those who commit second or subsequent sexual offenses or commit a sexual felony after a prior felony conviction. The other proposed change in the law in CSSB 85 is to add repeat sexual offenders to the list of those who are not eligible to earn "good time" or a reduction in their prison terms for good behavior. Under current law, most prisoners, including sexual offenders, can earn a one-third reduction of their sentences for good behavior. CS SB 85 would require repeat sexual offenders to serve the full length of their sentences; they would not be eligible for parole. By increasing sentences for repeat sexual offenses and actual time served for these offenses. SB 85 will help to protect Alaska's women and children from some of the most heinous crimes against them, sexual felonies. He asked members to review attachment A that outlines current and proposed sentencing guidelines for repeat sex offenders. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion to adopt the committee substitute (CS) as the working document. SENATOR JOHN COWDERY made a motion to adopt CSSB 85 \S version as the working document. There was no objection. SENATOR COWDERY asked how this might impact the prison system budget. SENATOR FRENCH replied the Department of Law assigned a zero fiscal note to the bill. The department does not expect a large increase in costs as a result of this bill because these offenders return to prison on a very regular basis anyway. Sex offenders are known to be repeat offenders. SENATOR COWDERY asked if there was a typical age for sex offenders. He said he knew Senator French had a background in this area. SENATOR FRENCH replied he spent one year prosecuting nothing but sex crimes and there is no typical age for a sex offender; they run the gamut from young to old. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked if the department had any comments. PORTIA PARKER from the Department of Corrections reported they worked with the Department of Law to prepare the fiscal note. They researched recidivism for sex offenders in the correction system and of the current population of 727 sex offenders 80 percent have been through the system at least once before. Of that 80 percent, 52 percent have been incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ten and more times. This accounts for a huge cost to the entire criminal justice system in terms of trooper, police, prosecutor and court system time. Leaving these violators in prison could in fact result in a cost savings to the entire system. SENATOR COWDERY asked if repeat offenders go through the system in the same way as a first time offender. SENATOR FRENCH explained any new offense requires a new trial for a finding of guilt. SENATOR FRED DYSON made a motion to move CSSB 85 (STA) from committee. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked if anyone that signed up to testify via teleconference had objection with the bill. LINDA WILSON, Deputy Director of the Alaska Public Defender Agency testified in opposition to SB 85. She commended the sponsor for wanting to address the problem but thought the bill was "too much of a response." The increase in presumptive sentences and maximum sentences and the denial of good time is beyond what is necessary and would treat sex offenders differently than other offenders. CHAIR GARY STEVENS advised the bill would move to the Judiciary Committee next and she would have an opportunity to speak there. SENATOR GUESS commented Ms. Wilson's concerns were good issues for the Judiciary Committee to address. She then made a motion to move SB 85 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There being no objection, it was so ordered.