The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Friday, September 4, 2009, at 10:00 AM, Central time in Hopkinsville, KY. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Ray S. Jones II, Gerald A. Neal, Mike Reynolds, Jerry P. Rhoads, Dan "Malano" Seum and Jack Westwood; Representatives Johnny Bell, Tom Riner and Steven Rudy.
Guest Speakers: Sen. Mike Reynolds and Warren County District Judge Sam Potter; J. Michael Brown, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Charles Geveden, Deputy Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; David Ogles and Kelly White, former Deputy Commissioner, Department of Corrections; David Jolly, Director, Tennessee Valley Authority Police and Nancy Mitchell, Manager, TVA Relations; Michael Meeks, Kentucky Alternative Programs; Angela Criswell, Bluegrass Prevention Center and Stephen Contos, Kentucky Alternative Programs.
LRC Staff: Norman Lawson, Committee Staff Administrator; Joanna Decker, Jon Grate and Carolyn Gaines.
Representative Tilley called the meeting to order, the roll was called, and a quorum was not present. Chief Circuit Judge John Atkins welcomed the committee to the Justice Center and commented that this was the first time that the Judiciary Committee had met in Hopkinsville. Judge Atkins then introduced various local officials including the County Judge Executive, Mayor, and other judges who were in attendance at the meeting. Senator Seum introduced Senator Ken Winters and Senator Joey Pendleton who were in attendance at the meeting. Representative Bell introduced David Ogles of the Jail Tracker organization and Chief District Judge Sam Potter from Warren County.
The first speakers were Senator Reynolds and Judge Sam Potter, Chief District Judge in Warren County Judge Potter spoke about 3 topics. The first was problems which have been caused by provisions in 2009 RS HB 369 which increased the felony theft limit from $300 to $500 but which included a provision that a person who was ordered to make restitution for a theft could not have a driver's license until the restitution was paid in full. The bill contained a provision for a hardship license. Judge Potter, who indicated that he was speaking for the District Judges Association on this matter, commented that a person who had written bad checks, then had their driver's license suspended, could not get to work to pay the required restitution and that the provisions for the hardship license were difficult to implement and administer. Judge Potter commented that many of these persons would simply drive anyway without a license and without insurance. Then if the person ran a stop sign and were cited that extra police, prosecution, defense, court, and jail expenses would be involved and the restitution still would not be paid. Judge Potter suggested that the proper remedy for failing to pay restitution was contempt of court, not the procedure demanded by HB 369. Representative Tilley commented that loss to retail merchants through theft and bad checks was $22 million per year. Judge Potter commented that the present law makes extra work for circuit clerks and indicated that there were two solutions to the problem. One was to make the loss of license permissive and the other was to eliminate the loss of license provision entirely. Of these choices, Judge Potter indicated, that the District Judges Association preferred elimination of the provision entirely.
The second problem cited by Judge Potter was the problem of jurisdiction between the Family Court and the District Court in the issuance of domestic violence restraining orders. Judge Potter cited a situation where family court issues against a juvenile, the juvenile then slaps his mother and the case then goes back to juvenile court. Judge Potter suggested that the family court be permitted to handle these cases as well. The third problem cited by Judge Potter involves the newly designed E-citations. When a police officer issues an E-citation, even for a prepayable offense, the citation automatically generates a court date. The problem is that people show up for court and do not prepay the citations thus taking court time and their own time when this is unnecessary. Judge Potter suggested that the citation be redesigned to properly reflect how a prepayable citation should be handled and that if the citation is prepaid that a court appearance is unnecessary. Judge Potter urged legislators to talk to judges about bills that affect them during the legislative process so that some of these problems might be avoided.
The next speaker was Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown. Secretary Brown presented a detailed explanation of how the disturbance began in dorm 6, spread to dorm 2 and then to dorm 3. Inmates set fire to these buildings and to the food service building, the canteen, the medical building, the visiting building, and various other facilities. Secretary Brown indicated that the inmates in dorm 5, the honor dorm exited their dorm and stood in front of cameras to prove that they were not involved in the disturbance. Secretary Brown indicated that a core group of 50-60 inmates were involved in the arson and disturbances. The outer perimeter of the facility, outside the fence, was secured by the Kentucky State Police and local police while the inner perimeter was secured by Department of Corrections emergency response teams. The old hospital buildings were outside the fence and were not damaged in the fire. The buildings that were damaged by the fire were largely destroyed and will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
Secretary Brown observed that the disturbance began about 6:30 PM, that fire departments responded promptly but were prevented from making close entry to extinguish fires until after the inmates were controlled, firefighting was done from outside the perimeter fence. Secretary Brown indicated that approximately 700 inmates were moved early in the morning of the next day to other state and private prison facilities and 482 inmates remained at Northpoint in existing dorms. Secretary Brown indicated that the priority for replacement of buildings will be to replace the food service and medical buildings which may be larger than the previous buildings and will be built to the current building and fire codes. Secretary Brown indicated that insurance will cover part of the cost of rebuilding but may not cover the cost of enlargement of the buildings and that at present there is no estimate of costs involved or a time line for completion of the new buildings. Secretary Brown indicated that the Friday incident may have been the result of an incident on Tuesday when a gang of Hispanic inmates attacked other inmates which resulted in the prison being "locked down". The lock down was being eased on Friday and controlled movement of inmates was being permitted when the incident occurred.
Representative Bell observed that he has heard for years about conditions at Northpoint and indicated that he wanted a full after action report on the incident. Secretary Brown responded that Northpoint is a medium security prison where the criteria for being sent there is inmate behavior, that Northpoint like most older prisons has open bay dorms which are double bunked, lacked sprinklers, and the only actual cells are in the segregation unit, and that it is more difficult to control inmates in such a setting. Senator Gibson observed that there were 34 employees on duty at the time the incident started and asked how long the warden had been there. Secretary Brown answered that the number of employees was slightly above normal and that the warden had been there for a couple of years. Senator Gibson asked if extra personnel were normal during a lock down to which Secretary Brown answered, yes. When asked about current conditions, Secretary Brown indicated that the inmates were being fed sack lunches and fast food as part of a temporary food service with the intention of providing better meals as soon as possible. When asked if the 700 prisoners moved to other state and private facilities have overcrowded those facilities, Secretary Brown responded, yes. Senator Westwood asked if insurance would pay 100% of the cost of replacing the buildings and facilities to which Secretary Brown responded that this is currently the subject of negotiation but that insurance should pay the basic costs plus transportation costs. Secretary Brown indicated that all new construction will meet current building and fire code standards but that current prison facilities, built under old codes, do not contain sprinklers.
Secretary Brown then presented a report on the situation at the Otter Creek private prison which is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America and which has been the subject of recent complaints about sexual assaults by guards on the female inmates at the facility. Citing the need to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, Secretary Brown indicated that the facility had two buildings, one which housed Hawaii inmates and one which housed Kentucky inmates. Secretary Brown observed that assaults against Hawaii inmates were not reported to Kentucky even though the facility is located in Kentucky. Following inmate complaints, Secretary Brown explained, Hawaii has moved its female inmates to prisons in other states.
Secretary Brown observed that the incidence of incidents reportable and actionable under the Prison Rape Elimination Act were much higher at Otter Creek than they are at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, the state operated facility for females, that the ratio of female correctional officers was much higher at the state facility, and there were allegations that staff at Otter Creek who had complaints filed against them in the Hawaii dorms were transferred to Kentucky dorms without telling Kentucky of the previous complaints. During this period, the contract with the Corrections Corporation of America expired and the state extended the contract temporarily without full renewal according to Secretary Brown. Speaker Stumbo and various other legislators sent a letter to the Governor requesting that the contract with the Corrections Corporation of America not be renewed. Secretary Brown indicated that he has sent a letter to the Corrections Corporation of America and to Speaker Stumbo detailing the demands of the Department of Corrections which include: hiring a female director of security, female staff and officers providing direct supervision of inmates, female security staff ratio of 40% or greater, conduct and implement an action plan with increased use of cameras to cut down on incidents which is approved by the Department of Corrections, uniform reporting of any and all sexual contact, and follow the PREA standards. Secretary Brown observed that the state does not have the facilities to house these female inmates if the private facility closes and that housing the female inmates in jails is not practical since county jails were not built to house female inmates. Senator Westwood asked if the 7 story building at Northpoint could be renovated to house female inmates to which Secretary Brown indicated that renovation of the building will cost $14 million and take several years. When asked if Corrections Corporation of America will accept the state's new demands for a new contract Secretary Brown indicated that he felt they would.
Secretary Brown then introduced Deputy Secretary Charles Geveden and urged the committee members to read the bills proposed as part of the cabinet's legislative agenda for the 2010 session which have been provided in the member's folders.
The next speaker was Mr. David C. Ogles of the JailTracker program of the Digitech Corporation in Glasgow, Ky. Mr. Ogles presented a powerpoint presentation in which he indicated that the JailTracker programs are designed to do more with less manpower in handling web enabled reporting and information handling, automation of repetitive tasks such as cell checks, integration with external systems, and integration of systems between jails using the JailTracker system. Part of the system is designed to provide financial management systems which provide double entry accounting, proper allocation of deposits and fees, automated collection of fees, and agency billing and allocation. The system also provides risk management such as alerts on inmates which would inform a jail taking an inmate of any prior problems and special needs the inmate had previously, tracking and documentation of incidents, and similar matters. Mr. Ogles indicated that in one jail alone 9 man hours per day were eliminated in answering questions from attorneys, families, and others as to who was in jail and what they had been charged with since the JailTracker system provides this information on-line through the internet so that all a person has to do is go to the jail website to find the information rather than having a jail employee search the records to find the information. Mr. Ogles indicated that the company was founded in 1988 and has been serving the public safety market since 2002, that about 1/2 of the jails in Kentucky either have JailTracker programs in effect or in the process of installation and that the programs are in use in 5 other states.
The next speakers were Nancy Mitchell and David Jolly, upcoming Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority police who spoke in favor of a bill which will be sponsored by Senator Winters, previously presented to the General Assembly, to give full state-wide police authority to the TVA police. Mr. Jolly spoke of a court case in which a TVA police officer stopped a person for driving under the influence, called the Benton Police to take the person to jail, and then had the court dismiss the case because the TVA police officer had no authority to stop the driver in the situation. Mr. Jolly observed that the TVA police can be a valuable back-up for rural police, and can respond more rapidly in some instances because they may be nearer to the incident. Mr. Jolly indicated that the TVA police all must complete the Federal Land Management police training offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glyncoe, Georgia. Mr. Jolly asserted that the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is "internationally accredited". Mr. Jolly called attention to a list of Kentucky law enforcement agencies and groups which supported the legislation. Representative Rudy asked if the Kentucky State Police supported the legislation to which Mr. Jolly indicated that the Kentucky State Police helped in preparing the language for the bill. Senator Winters indicated that Western Kentucky is short of law enforcement personnel and that the bill is needed. Senator Jones asked if the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center provided training on Kentucky law to which Mr. Jolly responded that it did not do so but that the agency provided this training. Senator Jones explained that he was concerned about providing federal law enforcement officers with Kentucky jurisdiction when they were not trained on Kentucky law. Senator Jones commented that the TVA police already had Kentucky jurisdiction to operate in counties in which TVA owned property. Representative Bell commented that he was concerned about extending Kentucky jurisdiction to federal officers and asked if other states in which TVA operates do not provide statewide jurisdiction to which Mr. Jolly replied that Kentucky and Georgia do not provide such jurisdiction. Representative Riner commented that when these issues have come up in the past that he has included a question to his constituents as to whether or not they favored giving federal officers Kentucky jurisdiction and that the response was an overwhelming, no. Other members commented that the state can exercise control over Kentucky officers but cannot do so if Kentucky grants jurisdiction to federal officers and that federal officers have in the past overstepped their jurisdiction.
The next speaker was Ms. Angela Criswell of the Bluegrass Prevention Center, accompanied by Stephen Contos of Kentucky Alternative Programs which rents ignition interlock devices to drivers and Michael Meeks, legislative agent for Kentucky Alternative Programs who spoke in favor of the House Committee Substitute for 2008 RS Senate Bill 34 which required the installation of ignition interlocks with driver recognition features on all vehicles owned by a person convicted of DUI. Ms. Criswell, citing statistics from the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers organization, indicated that eleven states require first time convicted drunk drivers use ignition interlocks, that ignition interlock requirements in New Mexico reduced drunk driving recidivism by 65% since 2002, that alcohol involved crashes are down by 31%, and that fatalities are down by 38%. Ms. Criswell further commented that the New Mexico program cost a driver $2.25 per day but that for every dollar invested in an ignition interlock the public saves $3. Ms. Criswell commented that in Kentucky the State Police estimate the economic cost of alcohol related crashes in 2007 was $326 million and that including quality of life losses the cost to Kentucky and taxpayers was over $1 billion. Ms. Criswell indicated that revoking a drunk driver's license was ineffective and that 50% to 75% of drunk drivers continue to drive without a license. Mr. Contos of Kentucky Alternative Programs distributed a sheet of information which he indicated dealt with comments made during the 2009 regular session with regard to objections to SB 34's House Committee Substitute. Mr. Contos indicated that the current lack of service points for ignition interlock devices in Kentucky reflects a lack of demand for the devices and that providers will increase the number of service points, that rental of an ignition interlock device costs about $3 per day with an installation fee ranging from $50 to $150, described how the devices work to prevent subverting the device, and indicated that eight device manufacturers are presently approved by Kentucky. Senator Clark indicated that Kentucky needs to reduce other causes of accidents as well as driving under the influence. Senator Jones indicated that in the past he has supported a drug driving bill and supports DUI legislation. Senator Neal asked if the proposed legislation would create a monopoly to which Mr. Meeks replied, no. Senator Seum asked if everyone using the vehicle would have to blow into the device whether they were the convicted drunk driver or not to which the reply was, yes. Other legislators asked if the legislation applied to all vehicles owned by the drunk driver to which the response was, yes. Representative Tilley indicated that there should be a provider of interlock devices and service for interlock devices within 50-75 miles of each driver.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:20 PM, Central time.