Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205

04/05/2016 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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09:04:15 AM Start
09:05:23 AM HB324
09:24:09 AM HB231
10:04:50 AM Confirmation Hearing: Department of Corrections
11:17:22 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 324(STA) Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointee: TELECONFERENCED
-- Public Testimony on Appointee --
Department of Corrections - Commissioner
Dean Williams
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 HB 231-EXTEND BOARD OF PAROLE                                                                              
9:24:09 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE called the committee back to order and announced                                                                  
the consideration of HB 231.                                                                                                    
9:24:51 AM                                                                                                                    
ESTHER MIELKE, Staff, Representative Bob Lynn, Alaska State                                                                     
Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, read the sponsor statement as                                                                      
     The Board of  Parole currently serves in  Alaska as the                                                                    
     authority over  parole setting; it is  currently set in                                                                    
     statute  to be  terminated  on June  30,  2016. HB  231                                                                    
     originally extended the date to  June 30, 2022, but the                                                                    
     most current  version of the  bill which was  passed by                                                                    
     House Finance  extends it to  June 30, 2021; this  is a                                                                    
     5-year extension.                                                                                                          
     The  Division of  Audit did  an audit  on the  Board of                                                                    
     Parole last year and the  audit includes an examination                                                                    
     of the  board's performance  in light of  the 11-sunset                                                                    
     criteria of points provided within the Alaska statute.                                                                     
     The Division  of Audit  found the board  to be  in good                                                                    
     standing, but provided  four recommendations to improve                                                                    
     their operations which address:                                                                                            
        1. The accuracy and consistency of the information                                                                      
          contained in parole files;                                                                                            
        2. Documentation    of    victim     and    offender                                                                    
        3. Deficiencies in proposed regulation changes                                                                          
        4. The security of the Department of Corrections'                                                                       
          information system.                                                                                                   
     In response to the audit,  the Board of Parole provided                                                                    
     responses to the  identified recommendations; likewise,                                                                    
     the  Department of  Corrections  generally agreed  with                                                                    
     the recommendations.                                                                                                       
     HB  231 fulfills  the  constitutional requirement  that                                                                    
     the  state establish  a parole  system and  accordingly                                                                    
     assist in keeping Alaskans safe.                                                                                           
     As you  can see the bill  also has a fiscal  note which                                                                    
     covers the board's operating  costs which were included                                                                    
     in the recently passed budget.                                                                                             
9:26:36 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STOLTZE asked  Ms. Mielke  to  explain the  change in  the                                                               
extension date.                                                                                                                 
MS.  MIELKE explained  that  typically the  Board  of Parole  was                                                               
extended for eight  years, but the Division of  Audit suggested a                                                               
six-year extension  due to  the crime bill  that was  passed. She                                                               
noted that  the current version of  the bill was amended  to five                                                               
CHAIR  STOLTZE asked  Ms. Mielke  to verify  that the  change was                                                               
made in House Finance.                                                                                                          
MS. MIELKE answered yes.                                                                                                        
9:28:30 AM                                                                                                                    
KRIS  CURTIS, Legislative  Auditor,  Legislative Audit  Division,                                                               
Alaska  State Legislature,  Juneau,  Alaska,  explained that  the                                                               
division looked  at whether the  Board of Parole was  serving the                                                               
public's  interest and  whether it  should be  extended. She  set                                                               
forth that  the division concluded  that the Board of  Parole met                                                               
the constitutional requirement that  the state establish a parole                                                               
system in addition  to operating in a  professional and efficient                                                               
manner.   She  stated   that  the   Legislative  Audit   Division                                                               
recommended   a   six-year   extension  and   added   that   four                                                               
recommendations were presented for operational improvements.                                                                    
She  specified   that  the  first  recommendation   was  for  the                                                               
executive director  to improve procedures to  ensure the required                                                               
documentation for  parole hearings was accurate  and consistently                                                               
included parole files.  She detailed that the  division looked at                                                               
38-discretionary  parole hearing  files and  several errors  were                                                               
found  such   as  risk  assessment  forms   not  being  tabulated                                                               
correctly and  parole applications were missing.  She pointed out                                                               
that the  division recommended  a general  documentation clean-up                                                               
because the errors did not impact the risk assessment.                                                                          
MS. CURTIS explained  that the second recommendation  was for the                                                               
executive  director,  in  coordination  with  the  Department  of                                                               
Corrections' management, to  implement documentation standards to                                                               
ensure  all offenders'  and victims'  notifications  are made  in                                                               
accordance to statutory requirements.  She revealed that based on                                                               
a sample  of parole files, the  division found a general  lack of                                                               
documentation that  offenders and victims were  being notified of                                                               
board  hearings  as  required  by  law.  She  said  the  division                                                               
believes  that notifications  were  happening because  complaints                                                               
were not evident, but notifications  could not be verified due to                                                               
a lack of documentation.                                                                                                        
She detailed that  the third recommendation was for  the board to                                                               
ensure proposed  regulations and all statutory  requirements were                                                               
addressed   related   to  its   duties.   She   noted  that   the                                                               
recommendation  was a  housekeeping type  of recommendation.  She                                                               
explained  that  a  statute  requires   the  board  to  establish                                                               
regulation standards  under which  the suitability of  a prisoner                                                               
for  parole   should  be  determined.   She  revealed   that  the                                                               
regulations  in  place  during   the  audit  described  the  risk                                                               
assessment matrix that had been used  for many years as the tool;                                                               
however,  the board  implemented a  new risk  assessment tool  in                                                               
2014 called the Level of  Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) tool.                                                               
She divulged that when the  board went to change the regulations,                                                               
the Department of  Law recommended that any tool  not be included                                                               
in  order to  avoid the  trouble of  changing regulations  in the                                                               
future.  She   remarked  that  while  the   Department  of  Law's                                                               
recommendation was  reasonable and efficient,  the recommendation                                                               
does not comply with statute.                                                                                                   
She  explained  that  the  fourth   recommendation  was  for  the                                                               
Department  of  Corrections  Administrative  Services  Division's                                                               
director  take steps  to ensure  that  their Offender  Management                                                               
System complied  with security best practices.  She revealed that                                                               
the division withheld  details for the security  finding to avoid                                                               
exploitation. She  specified that the Legislative  Audit Division                                                               
provided details to the Department  of Corrections and corrective                                                               
action was taken.                                                                                                               
She summarized that  the Department of Corrections  and the Board                                                               
of  Parole  concurred  with   the  Legislative  Audit  Division's                                                               
9:32:06 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE  noted that Ms.  Curtis' audit gave a  short shrift                                                               
to victims' rights.  He opined that an  abridgement of prisoners'                                                               
rights  would have  received a  bigger section  in the  audit. He                                                               
pointed  out that  victims' rights  was a  prominent part  of the                                                               
state's constitution. He added that he  was not sure if the audit                                                               
reflected the seriousness of the violation.                                                                                     
MS. CURTIS replied that the  notifications would have been worded                                                               
very strongly if the Legislative  Audit Division really felt that                                                               
notifications  were   not  happening.  She  specified   that  the                                                               
recommendation boiled  down to a  problem with the  Department of                                                               
Corrections not using the management  system for documentation on                                                               
the  officer or  institutional levels.  She said  the Legislative                                                               
Audit Division  believed that  notifications were  happening, but                                                               
people were  not taking  the time  to document  how and  when the                                                               
notifications   were   happening.   She   summarized   that   the                                                               
Legislative   Audit    Division   thought    that   notifications                                                               
recommendation was a  procedural issue as opposed to  a victim or                                                               
offender issue.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR  STOLTZE  asked  if  the  Legislative  Audit  Division  had                                                               
contact  with  the  Alaska  Office  of  Victims'  Rights  on  the                                                               
notification issue.                                                                                                             
MS. CURTIS answered no. She  specified that the Legislative Audit                                                               
Division kept its interactions with  the board and the Department                                                               
of Corrections.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR MCGUIRE  requested to address the  executive director for                                                               
the Alaska  Board of Parole.  She asked that Mr.  Edwards address                                                               
the  four recommendations  from the  Legislative Audit  Division.                                                               
She  specified  that the  two  areas  that  caused her  the  most                                                               
consternation were recommendations 1 and 2.                                                                                     
She addressed  Recommendation 1  and asked  what Mr.  Edwards was                                                               
doing to  respond to  the audit  in the  area of  risk assessment                                                               
forms. She stated that she was  concerned that SB 91 would expand                                                               
the  work the  Board of  Parole would  do with  notifications and                                                               
pointed out  that errors were  currently occurring.  She remarked                                                               
that SB 91  would also increase reliance on risk  assessment as a                                                               
tool as opposed to a simple financial requirement.                                                                              
She  stated that  she shared  Chair  Stoltze's concern  regarding                                                               
Recommendation  2 on  notifying  both parolees  and victims.  She                                                               
remarked that in  many cases notifications were  not occurring or                                                               
at a minimum were not occurring in less than 30 days in advance.                                                                
9:34:19 AM                                                                                                                    
JEFF  EDWARDS,  Executive  Director,   Alaska  Board  of  Parole,                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska, addressed Recommendation  1 and noted that the                                                               
audit occurred  when the board  used an old  risk-assessment tool                                                               
that was  developed in the late  70s. He revealed that  the board                                                               
brought  in  an  expert  and  decided  to  change  to  the  LSI-R                                                               
evaluation tool that  was used by the  Department of Corrections.                                                               
He  remarked that  LSI-R  was a  dynamic,  data-driven tool  that                                                               
analyzed up-to-date and accurate information.                                                                                   
9:39:47 AM                                                                                                                    
He concurred  that SB 91  will have  a significant impact  on the                                                               
Board  of Parole.  He  opined that  the  Alaska Criminal  Justice                                                               
Commission attempted  to recognize that  the Board of  Parole has                                                               
an active  role in corrections  and criminal justice.  He pointed                                                               
out that  the Board of Parole  was one of the  only agencies that                                                               
can actually release inmates early from prison.                                                                                 
He set forth that the board  was happy with its process. He noted                                                               
that  the  board's   recidivism  rate  was  only   5  percent  on                                                               
discretionary  parole or  early  release. He  disclosed that  the                                                               
board has  been trying to move  in the directions that  SB 91 has                                                               
outlined.  He remarked  that SB  91 solidifies  legislatively the                                                               
direction the board will be moving into.                                                                                        
SENATOR MCGUIRE  asked that Mr. Edwards  address Recommendation 2                                                               
and respond  to the many errors  made in the victim  and offender                                                               
notifications as well as why parole was not granted.                                                                            
9:42:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  EDWARDS replied  that the  audit mentioned  that the  victim                                                               
notifications  were  not  documented   along  with  the  prisoner                                                               
notification  of granting  or not  granting parole.  He said  the                                                               
board acknowledges  that documentation  should have  occurred. He                                                               
set forth that victims were included  and the board was very open                                                               
and transparent during the victim process.                                                                                      
He stated that  staff has been directed to  conduct an exhaustive                                                               
review  of every  parole-applicant information  packet to  ensure                                                               
notifications are going  out. He added that the  board has worked                                                               
with  the   Division  of  Institutions  for   the  Department  of                                                               
Corrections  in opening  and  expanding a  knowledge  base for  a                                                               
specific  area in  the Offender  Management System  that includes                                                               
victim  notification,  dates when  paperwork  was  sent out,  and                                                               
officer commentary.  He revealed that the  officer commentary was                                                               
included in  the board's  parole information  packets as  well as                                                               
comments made by each victim.                                                                                                   
MR.  EDWARDS stated  that victims  have an  impact on  the parole                                                               
system. He  said the  board highly  encourages victims  to either                                                               
comment  in-person, telephonically,  or in  writing. He  said the                                                               
board makes  every attempt  to be  inclusive and  transparent. He                                                               
pointed out  that the board  has a pretty good  relationship with                                                               
the Alaska Office of Victims'  Rights. He asserted that the board                                                               
takes  victims'  statements  very  seriously.  He  admitted  that                                                               
victims that testify  before the board was an  emotional event at                                                               
times  and the  board tries  to  be as  sensitive as  it can.  He                                                               
voiced that  the board  feels that  the documentation  system has                                                               
been improved to makes sure there  is a paperwork trail of dates,                                                               
times, and any comments made.                                                                                                   
9:45:57 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MCGUIRE   stated  that  she  appreciated   Mr.  Edward's                                                               
explanation  on Recommendation  2.  She said  she encouraged  her                                                               
colleagues to follow  up prior to the sunset. She  set forth that                                                               
victim notification  should have  a zero-failure rate.  She noted                                                               
that  one  victim  was  not  provided  with  an  offender-release                                                               
notification. She pointed out that  the state has very high rates                                                               
of domestic  violence and  assault. She  remarked that  she could                                                               
not imagine  if the victim  was a member  of her family  and they                                                               
were not notified.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  STOLTZE  asserted  that   correctional  officers  did  not                                                               
provide  enough input  on the  issues of  parole, probation,  and                                                               
furloughs. He opined that correctional  officers know the inmates                                                               
the  best and  asked  how their  input might  be  augmented in  a                                                               
formal or informal fashion.                                                                                                     
MR.  EDWARDS revealed  that he  was a  correctional officer  at a                                                               
maximum-security prison 16  years ago. He detailed  that he lived                                                               
with the  inmates and recognized  their challenges.  He explained                                                               
that  a  correctional  officer  gains  a  certain  knowledge  and                                                               
respect  through   professional  interaction  with   inmates.  He                                                               
revealed that  the board currently accepted  written testimony or                                                               
statements  from  correctional  staff  on  behalf  of  particular                                                               
inmates.  He  said including  inmate  input  was not  necessarily                                                               
mandated,  but  the  board  would  be happy  to  look  at  having                                                               
correctional officers as  part of the process.  He disclosed that                                                               
the  board consisted  of two  former  correctional officers  that                                                               
share the  same interests and ideology  as he does. He  set forth                                                               
that  the   board  was  inclusive  and   welcomed  expanding  its                                                               
inclusiveness to  the correctional  staff because he  agreed that                                                               
they offer insight as to day-to-day operations.                                                                                 
9:48:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STOLTZE  specified that  guard  input  would provide  both                                                               
positive and negative input. He  stated that guards probably know                                                               
which prisoners were very redeemable and rehabilitable.                                                                         
SENATOR MCGUIRE  thanked Mr.  Edwards for his  comments on  SB 91                                                               
and  his work  towards making  the  Board of  Parole better.  She                                                               
shared  that  the  Legislature was  looking  into  the  high-cost                                                               
category of  parole revocations and  denials. She asked  that Mr.                                                               
Edward  think  about  Recommendation  1  regarding  the  lack  of                                                               
communication  regarding  parole  violations and  the  category's                                                               
high cost impact to the state.                                                                                                  
MR.  EDWARDS  replied  that   he  appreciated  Senator  McGuire's                                                               
comments and would adhere to her recommendation.                                                                                
9:51:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE closed public testimony on HB 231.                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL asked  when an audit commences prior  to a sunset                                                               
MS. CURTIS explained that audit  timelines differ between boards,                                                               
commission  and entities  with sunset  dates. She  specified that                                                               
the audit for  the Board of Parole was conducted  the year before                                                               
the 2016 sunset date.                                                                                                           
SENATOR COGHILL pointed  out that the Board of  Parole was making                                                               
changes as well as possible  changes from pending legislation. He                                                               
asked if a 2021 sunset date would trigger an audit in 2020.                                                                     
MS.  CURTIS answered  that work  would start  in 2021.  She noted                                                               
that  she was  approached with  a one-year  termination date  and                                                               
remarked that she did not  know if the Legislative Audit Division                                                               
currently  had the  resources to  do an  audit in  one year.  She                                                               
revealed that  in order  to evaluate  a board there  has to  be a                                                               
certain number of  years which the board can  accomplish what was                                                               
in SB 91 to  actually be able to review the  bill's impact on the                                                               
board. She disclosed that she  advocated for a three-year minimum                                                               
before the Legislative  Audit Division goes back  in. She pointed                                                               
out that  the audit's six-year recommendation  was not reflective                                                               
of SB 91 because  the bill was not in play  during the audit, but                                                               
the  Legislative  Audit  Division thought  legislative  oversight                                                               
earlier than  the maximum  eight years was  prudent and  with the                                                               
implementation  of the  new risk  assessment  tool, the  division                                                               
settled on  six years; however, an  earlier audit in light  of SB
91 made a lot of sense.                                                                                                         
CHAIR  STOLTZE stated  that he  favored a  shorter timeline,  but                                                               
noted that the committee was  not making a final decision because                                                               
the finance committee was a safety in changing if necessary.                                                                    
9:54:56 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE announced HB 231 would be held in committee.