Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/10/2003 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                                   

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