Parole Board Administrative Meeting 10/27/20
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
The Parole Board held a Public Administrative Meeting on October 27th, 2020 at 11:00am., wherein members of the public were allowed to ask questions and make public comments. You may listen to the audio of that meeting here:
Public question and answer session begins at approximately 16:04 of the recording. I will be typing up a transcript of the discussion for those that cannot access the audio in the next few days.
You may download the transcription of the hearing here:
Parole Board Administrative Meeting – Public
October 27, 2020
Jeff Edwards: This meeting we’re here for the annual public administrative meeting for the Alaska Board of Parole. My name is Jeff Edwards, I’m the Executive Director of the Parole Board. Today's date is Tuesday,.October 27th. This meeting is going to last for an hour. I'll go over some of the functionality and the organization of the board. I do see that folks are coming online, and just a reminder of the mute function. If you do have questions or comments throughout this presentation just remember that you may or may not be muted and unmute yourself if you have a question or comment. Before I ask the four board members who are in attendance to introduce themselves, talk a little bit about themselves, what regional they represent, I'll go over kinda the structure of today's meeting first in which I'll talk a little bit maybe 15-18 minutes of the structure and organization of the board. I'll talk a little bit about some of the data the number of hearings and such, but the main function of today's meeting is to allow folks the general public to have access to the board members to ask some questions. If they have comments or concerns, this is the time to raise those. If they have questions for board members, and how they function how they operate, this is the meeting for that to take place and you're welcome to make any comments. You don't have, you can just participate and watch and observe and that's just fine. This is the first time we're doing it via zoom everybody so bear with us as we work through some of the technical issues if there are any and how we proceed and have individuals speak and so we can get a good audio and a good response.
So, as I mentioned my name is Jeff Edwards, I’m the executive director for the Alaska board of parole. I’ll ask the four board members that are in attendance, I will say that our vice chair Sarah Possenti is not in attendance today, she has a scheduling conflict, but she represents the Fairbanks and the Northern Region and the Western Region, and so Ms. Grunwald is the chair of the parole board, I'll have her start with her introductions, then we'll move through each board member and then I'll get started with the function and the organization. So Ms. Grunwald…
Edie Grunwald: Alright, hi everybody, I’m Edie Grunwald and this is my second year on the parole board and we take our jobs pretty serious and we just got finished with the parole board runs for the month of October and we're already prepping for November. Let’s see part of that I’m retired military 31 years, been in Alaska for 34-35 years now, and I just want to do the right thing, meet my obligations, help keep the community safe while also doing the right thing for those inmates and parolees that want to be successful and that are successful. So thank you very much for attending today.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you Ms. Grunwald, well move on to Steve Meyer.
Steve Meyer: Good morning everyone, Steve Meyer here. I've been on the board for almost five years now. Lived in Alaska most of my adult life. Had a career in law enforcement which ended retiring from probation and parole in 2014. Coming on the board in 2016. I'm from the South Central region. I live in Kenai and do prelims from home here in Kenai. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you Mr. Meyer, we’ll go to Mr Tupo next.
Leitoni Tupou: Good morning everyone, my name is Leitoni Tupou. I live in Juneau; I represent the Southeast Alaska. Prior to serving on the board I spent most of my career with the Department of Corrections. I have been on the board since March of this year. I was appointed by the current Governor Michael Dunleavy, and it is the privilege to serve with the folks on the board. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you Mr. Tupou and Mr. Wilson.
Jason Wilson: Thank you and good morning. I hope everyone can hear me, I've been having technical difficulties with my computer this morning. My name is Jason Wilson. I’m Tlingit. I live in Juneau. I also represent the Southeast region as well as I think a few other areas. I've been on the board right before board member Meyer came on. I think I came on so, a little over five years now and absolute pleasure to do this job as well as work with the people that I work with. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you board members. Bear with me while I I go over…
Edie Grunwald: One more thing, I think I forgot to say that I represent the MATSU and Anchorage area. So.Thanks.
Jeff Edwards: Very good thank you. I'm gonna go over the organization and function..how the board was created, go over a few stats and then I'll turn it over to members of the public to ask questions. So, bear with me while I get through this kind of introductory phase.
The Alaska board of parole was created as a parole authority for the Senate under the Alaska statute 33.16 titled the parole administration act. The board consists of five part time board members appointed by the governor, four of which we just met today, with confirmation by the legislature to serve staggered terms of five years. One board member is up for reappointment or the position gets filled every year, but they serve five years staggered terms. Other statue directs the board members reflected based on their ability to make decisions that are compatible with the welfare of the community and the individual offender. The governor from among the board members chooses the boards presiding chair, which we've met today Ms. Grunwald. Alaska statute directs the governor to make appointment to the board with due regard for representation on the board of the ethnic, racial, sexual, and cultural populations of the state, and that’s per statue. Statutes also require the governor to appoint at least one board member who resides in the 1st judicial District 1, one member who resides in the 3rd judicial district, and one member who resides in the 2nd or the 4th, which we have accomplished that here with our current makeup of the board. The board conducts three main types of hearings. The first being early release hearings called discretionary, that’s what we call them discretionary hearings, they conduct revocation hearings and special medical parole hearings. By statute an inmate may not be released… should be considered for parole release until a statutory minimum time in prison has been satisfied. Upon application eligible inmate will be considered for parole and will appear before the board. The board will consider each case in view of certain criteria and I'm going to list these . There’s four main criteria and I’ll read these to you right now. This is in consideration of discretionary release proceedings for inmates who are incarcerated.
The prisoner will live and remain at liberty without violating laws or conditions imposed by the board.
The prisoner’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society will be furthered by release on parole.
The prisoner will not pose a threat of harm to the public if released on parole.
And the 4th is prisoner release of a prisoner on parole would not diminish the seriousness of the crime.
So those are the four main factors the board must consider in each parole release proceeding. In addition to the statutory factors I just mentioned the board also seeks input from the victim, and of the victim’s family, they consider institutional behavior, release plans, past record, recommendations from their assigned parole officer, and programming completed while incarcerated. Those are other factors the board weighs. A parole decision will either release an inmate on parole, continue the case for further consideration, or deny release. Those are the three main choices if you will that the board has in each individual case. Accompanying the board’s release authority is the responsibility for public welfare and each parole release the board weighs the benefits of granting parole release against the inherent risks. In 2019 the board conducted 753 discretionary parole hearings with a grant which we call grant with its release rate of 37% which essentially means 30% of the hearings conducted in court ordered release at some point. That percentage of 37% I mentioned is consistent with last year's grant rate and previous years. Of the top three crimes for applicants applying for discretionary parole were assault, vehicle theft, theft in general and drug convictions. I want to talk a little bit about revocation proceedings. When it’s been determined that a parolee…when I say parolee it’s somebody who's been released from incarceration… they’re in the community and they have violated a law or condition of parole. The board will hold a revocation hearing to decide upon the course of action to take in the case. The board may choose to revoke the violator’s parole and return the individual back to prison. The case may be continued to a future date or the parolee may continue on parole supervision and reside in the community. In 2019 the board processed 651 revocations which is a significant reduction in the number of revocation hearing comparisons to previous years. So essentially saying that the board has seen fewer revocation hearing proceedings in the calendar year 2019. Most of these hearings was the result in some form of substance abuse. The top three crimes for offenders on parole the board sees for revocation hearings were for assault drugs and theft. 446 parolees successfully completed parole supervision in 2019 which effectively means individuals that completed their term of parole, parole supervision and no longer fall under the authority of the parole board. The third here or the third proceeding we convene are special medical parole proceedings under 33.16.085 the board has the authority to release a prisoner to special medical parole who is severely medically or cognitive disabled as certified in writing by a physician. In addition to conducting parole hearings each board member is responsible for setting parole conditions. Prior to each inmates’ release on parole supervision a single board member will review the inmate’s entire history and imposes a set of supervision conditions that must be followed. Parole conditions…there are five main purposes; they notify the prisoner of the conduct that is permissible and what conduct is prohibitive if the parolee is to remain in the community on parole. It also advises the parolee in writing of laws that have been in the past and frequently violated by parolees, so a parolee does not inadvertently violate laws. Requires the parolee to advise the parole officer of major changes in the parolee's life so that any problems may be dealt with and if possible crisis averted and aids in the rehabilitation of the parolee and protects the public by helping the parole officer monitor the parolees activity in the community.
Just a little bit about the location and frequency of parole hearings. As a general rule, the board attempts to travel to all major institutions around the state to conduct the parole hearings, that has obviously slightly changed in the wake of the covid pandemic, but in an effort we try to visit most institutions, we’re doing by zoom obviously now, but we try to go into each institution which are located in Juneau, Seward, Kenai, Anchorage we have Eagle River, Highland Mountain Correctional Center and Palmer. We also have Point Mackenzie, Fairbanks the FCC Fairbanks Correctional Center, our largest facility is a Goose Creek Correctional Center out in the Valley. As a function of the parole board staff, we also are in charge of executive clemency investigations. Executive Clemency under 33.20.070, states the governor may grant pardons, commutations of sentence, and reprise and suspend or remit fines or forfeiture in whole or part of offenses against the laws of the State of Alaska. Our staff has been tasked on behalf of the governor's office when he is decided or she had decided to investigate an application for executive clemency our agency would be the one who does the background in the investigation and report back to the governor's office on behalf of our organization. I mentioned a little bit about the Covid pandemic, obviously we're living in a new world we've had to adjust our proceedings and our processes rather quickly at the beginning of 2020. I’m proud to say that staff and the board did not pause did not halt any proceedings. We continue to carry on and meet the demands of the state which, was a challenge to be quite honest. We now are convening via zoom just like we are today, and we have organized and coordinated with each facility each field office so that we can all participate via the zoom platform and convene hearings. As I mentioned we're able to do 100% commit to the completion of the function and organization of the parole board. We haven’t missed any we haven’t delayed any we have been able to carry on as we have in the past, with the exception obviously we're doing things through video feed and video conferencing through this platform. It is our intention that well I guess I say loosely what's gonna happen in the future, I'm not quite sure, but I know that we…it’s our desire to return back to our previous organization in which we travel and visit each prison facility and conduct our hearings in person.
With that being said we're going to transition into the public if you have questions if you have comments remember that pesky little mute button, and if you either raise your hand physically or there's a little icon indicator we can go as I see somebody that is interested in asking questions, I’ll call your name. I think almost everybody has some sort of indicator, and there is a chat function right and there's a chat function that you can find on the right hand side so with that I'll open it up to the floor for questions or comments
Jeff Edwards: I see a hand raised, Angela Hall is the indicator there.
Angela Hall: Hi, so with regards to severity of the crime, it seems that the parole board often uses severity of the offense to deny parole, what does the parole board use to conclude that and how exactly do they decide that a crime is so severe, as to lessen seriousness if parole is granted? Like, how does the parole board come to that conclusion?
Jeff Edwards: I’ll allow the board members to the voting members to go ahead and respond to that.
Edie Grunwald: Right. Thanks Mr. Edwards and thanks..Angela for your question. What we look at is the effects that the crime has had on the victim..victims, the pre calculated, the danger the dangerousness of the situation. We had one case where not only I mean there was a slew of victims that included the people that found the murder victim, the condition, you know what took place during the crime, how it took place, who all was put at risk, other things that we consider is not only the nature of the crime the details around it, we also do consider the PO’s recommendation, in addition you know we look at their history, whether they have been successful in the past, their violations, we call that…there’s also an offender’s management plan, have they taken any classes or courses or programs to reduce their risk to the community, of disciplinary actions or informational records they've had while they’ve been incarcerated, we look at if there’s been any evidence of learning, prevention of going forward, those mandatory courses or programs that are required either by the court, or the parole board, when there’s a plea deal, what was the original charges, what was brought down, their assessment scores, they have assessments that they take while they’re in there and in the process, and we look at the high areas that have been assessed and you know we look at the letters that we get letters of opposition, letters of support, what’s in the letters, we consider those, you know what's their relea..you know as far as other factors that we look at, how much remorse does the person, have none- little – are they sorry they got caught, do they blame others, I mean the variables are pretty vast.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you Ms. Grunwald. I see a hand by Community Member. Ms. Pittman you have a question.
Community Member: Hi. Thank you so much. So I'd like to…Ms. Grunwald I’d like to just add to clarify on your question as well as asking an additional question. You said that you rely one aspect is to rely on appeal recommendation, one question is I'd like to know how much weight do you put into that PO’s recommendation for any parole applicant? So that's the first question I have.
Edie Grunwald: Okay we each..each of the Board members puts their own value on each of the variables, and so it's not just whether they recommend grant or deny or continue, we look at the whole picture and everything that’s involved because…no we look at what the parole officer has to say and we consider it and sometimes there's a parole officers that does go over and above and I mean they all work really hard but some of them are really involved in a person you know depending on the circumstances of the parolee and we just look at what they have to say how they say it and we even ask the PO questions when we need some clarification on an issue.
Community Member: Okay, thank you and the next question I have is the board has recently and heavily taken to the practice of adding more time to serve as being a prisoner's convective action when parole is denied, corrective actions seems like it should have some casual connection to something the board wishes an offender to change about themselves, would you please explain what these setoffs are meant to address in offenders and how does the board decide on a suitable amount of time when a setoff is given, an in this question is specific to because there's been very high number of prisoners that have been denied parole when they have been OMP complete and so I would like you to address that please.
Edie Grunwald: That…that the one thing that even though a person might be OMP complete, no we don’t have any pressure, the board’s not under any pressure, you know we take the responsibility of discretionary parole seriously and it's different from mandatory parole. There's a common misconception that just because a parolee might be eligible, that they’re gonna automatically be paroled into the community, but that’s not true. But also some people have the perception that they’ve served enough time that they’ll be released and that’s not true either, the higher the severity of the offense the more serious the parole board looks at it, you know we do look at their prior associations, what type of violations that they’ve had, where there, and we look at the whole the whole gamut all over again, it’s not just well we continue this person to take this particular program or course, where are they at with it, or sometimes we have to give that carrot where we have to do something to try to get that inmate to take a program or course because they don't know what they don't know just like the rest of us we don't know what we don't know and so it just gives us gives them an opportunity maybe to learn some new tools in their tool box, but they’re on that course, there’s still their whole history and everything else that's involved and I don’t know about the timing that’s involved, I know that if they are on discretionary parole it is a privilege and they’re released cause we have a higher expectation that they will be successful and so where they’re at and what they need and all of that is taken into consideration…and maybe one of the other board members can help out with this.
Leitoni Tupou: This is Lei Tupou. I am going to address directly your question in regards to the OMP completion. We have seen a lot of OMP completion. It's one thing to complete the programs that are recommended for them to do, it’s completely a different thing for them to use that in their daily lives as they are being under supervision. So we there’s a balance that we have to maintain during the hearings one of us will ask the question, something like share with us…let's use the seven habits of highly effective people, one of the programs that they take, share with us the first step and a lot of time they don't remember it, so so it gives you some kind of an idea yeah it's one thing for you to complete the program, but what have you taken out of the program that you can share with us to help us with our decision in regards to either to release you or give you some more time to complete, to refresh the program that you claim you completed.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you Mr. Tupou and Ms. Grunwald. I’m just searching for a hand raised. I see Terria Vandenhuerk has her hand raised.
Terria Vandenhuerk: .Hi so, I’m an advocate in the community and I also work with the treatment providers case for case management and one of the things that I am concerned about when we're talking about OMP requirements, programming so on and so forth, during the pandemic all programming, treatment providers, volunteers, anybody that's contracted or running classes inside each institution has been halted, so when somebody wants to apply for parole and they are eligible whether it be 3 years, two years, one year to the door, one of the requirements obviously is they have to be OMP complete. Individuals needing to take part in the 2.1 level treatment, or 3.5 level of treatment do not have access to these programs. My question is, what is the parole board doing to allow individuals the opportunity to participate in treatment programs that are not available inside the institutions at this time, and is there an opportunity for individuals that can't complete the OMP to be able to ankle monitor on parole too inpatient or program or to home so they can participate in treatment according to their the recommendation of the assessing clinician.
Jeff Edwards: Ms. Grunwald do you want to take that and talk a little bit about treatment in the facilities. I do know that obviously we’re in a unique time with the pandemic and allowing contractors and outside agencies into the facilities was halted, but I believe you know there are programs that are operating and Ms. Grunwald would probably be able to speak a little bit about program choices in the in the facilities and allowing folks on EM and whatnot.
Edie Grunwald: I can a little bit. You know with the pandemic it did throw a wrench in everything and it sucks. It sucks for everybody involved. They have opened up and have been doing some meetings by zoom. Again depending on a lot of the factors and with the PO’s recommendation if there's an opportunity to release too a bed to bed transfer, it's going to be dependent upon or even the outpatients it’s going to be dependent upon the program, their policies and we just had a presentation during our last board run from the person that’s in charge of the substance abuse stuff, you know to try and help us as board members to know what what's out there and what we can do. We're not the ones that assign them what they need, they take an assessment and they've gone to this online assessment, but they but they're still doing it. From what he told us, and you know maybe Steve or Lei can you know Mr. Meyer or Mr. Tupou can jump in and help out cause it's a little bit convoluted. What's available and what is the inmate’s custody level, if they’re at a medium or closed or less the options are a little bit more, but somebody else pipe in. I’m not the only board member.
Leitoni Tupou: I’ll try an attempt to answer your question. I'm gonna go back to the OMP you alluded that OMP is one of the requirements for any offenders to come in front of us and that is not true, the board look at in our decision making, but it's not really a mandatory to be..it can affect the board decision but it's not a mandatory when it comes to OMP. I want to address the Covid, the impact of the Covid in terms of the programming and not only within the institution, but outside of the institution. The timing you know the covid has been with us for since March maybe 8 months when we when we look at the application in terms of discretionary parole the majority of them, they have been in the facility for many many years, they have been there before the Covid, so when it comes to programming, it is the expectation of this board that when they come in front of the board they come prepared to present because program that they completed because they have been there for a long time. Now, there are those who come in front of the board for discretionary parole, they don't have that kind of a time frame to complete the program while they were in the institution so the board in many cases kind of look and entertain the idea if we can let him out, he'll be able to complete the program on the outside. So that’s the dilemma that the board is facing. In regards of our dealing with the programs, the programs are basically run by DOC, the Department, so we have little input on when it comes to what program is being operated inside of the facility and outside the facility. I hope that makes sense what I’m trying to explain.
Steve Meyer: Hello Steve Mayer here. Oh go ahead..go ahead Edie. (pause) The question about electronic monitoring or furlough options for treatment, that that is something the board looks at, but again with the flu issues that that's somewhat limited, but that's always been kind of part of the process with parole when we have some of those some people that that appear to be suitable for that sort of release to EM or an there's furlough options - you know one of the things that that's always going to be a struggle with treatment within the facilities is enough funding enough room and I’m saying we don't have any control of that, some of our larger facilities have put in some new programs and that's a good thing that's alleviating some of the pressure, but one of the things that that's talked about so much is treatment this treatment that, but as important as treatment is, the other side of that is the end game. You know you can send people to residential treatment all all year long but there has to be something to go to from that, and I think that's one of the things right now you know the circumstances of world makes it even more difficult for folks. Anyway, thank you. Thank you Chairman Grunwald.
Jeff Edwards: Ok I see other hand being raised. We have I believe Angela Hall again. Ms. Hall.
Angela Hall: Yeah I had a question. Is the parole board required to educate themselves on the latest scientific data or statistical information regarding recidivism, I'm just curious about that.
Edie Grunwald: Actually, there’s the Authority of Paroling Authorities International that offers ongoing training and with that we are we are members and they have training annual training every year, but they also offer currently they’ve got a webinars series going on right now that addresses a lot of those issues, but there's a lot of information and the parole board does a pretty good job at looking at the data and at the information. I know I'm always doing research because I want to make sure maybe because I’m thrown into this career field and not really by choice but, you know now by obligation and and it's an honor, but I also feel like I have to get educated on everything and look at what's available and that's one of the reasons for the requirement of the assessment is to look at the assessments as well. So I don't know if that helps, somebody else have a another answer.
Angela Hall: Well in follow up to that then, I just want, I'm trying to understand why a 10-year setoff is necessary for individuals. I mean why so many years? Does it take that many years for someone to go through whatever programming or training, I mean it seems excessive.
Edie Grunwald: I think you're referring to a murder, that's usually what that falls under is a murder right? And so when we deny that’s just the automatic the automatic time that's given because in Alaska they’ve statute wise they've gone from life sentences which Alaska doesn't have any more to a certain amount of years, so even those with life sentence is 2 life sentences or more when we deny a person discretionary parole it just automatically is a 10 year extension.
Angela Hall: and that's in statute? that it has to be 10 years?
Edie Grunwald: no no What’s in statute is the no more life sentences, it's a policy within maybe, Jeff, Mr. Edwards can speak to this a little bit better, that with those cases, with the murder… to meet that statute that's what they do. Mr. Edwards?
Jeff Edwards: Yeah, I can just provide a little bit more information on that, the statute actually allows the board to flat out deny parole for all offenders and that could mean they have to serve 30 more years. The board felt it necessary to establish an internal policy to cap that at 10 years, so that that's a decision of the makeup of the board and what they decided to do. The actual statute does give the board the legal authority to deny parole forever essentially on some cases, or any cases but we felt that placing a 10 year cap was a good policy decision for the board to consider in those cases in which the inmate was sentenced to a lot of years a lot of decades, often times 99 years, so those that’s the internal decision from the board.
Jeff Edwards: I have a hand up from Community Member again. Go ahead.
Community Member: Thank you. So you mentioned the denying of those homicide cases, so recently the board has taken to denying almost every applicant with a homicide charge, does the board believe that an applicant with a homicide charge can attain suitability for parole, and if so, what circumstances would that require.
Jeff Edwards: I’ll let board members answer…
Edie Grunwald: Actually we haven't denied all of the homicide..
Community Member: No not all of, almost all of them
Edie Grunwald: no no yeah 'cause there's been a few that we have granted. Those few have had amazing Victim Support, family support, they have a very clean institutional record, I mean there's all those variables that are the same variables that we look at including the risk factors, community support, there’s a lot involved in that decision. We have had a few murders recently that have been you know it's taking a lot of consideration a lot of thought and a lot of research and a lot of consideration I mean it's not just something that we do off the cuff at all. Somebody else want to pipe in and help out here?
Steve Meyer: I think you know each case is different and that's why we don't just have a sheet, or we check the boxes. Every case is different, and I can tell you when I was a field probation parole officer, I had some great successes with a lot of people and some of those people were murderers there were out on discretionary parole. It happened, but each case is examined as it as a standalone case not a not check the boxes or filling the blanks so and there's a lot of variables that goes into each and every one of those decisions. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: OK so thank you Mr. Meyer. I see a hand up Ms. Vandenhuerk again. You have a question or comment?
Terria Vandenhuerk: Well I have a comment, but I also have a question. So as somebody in long term recovery myself and formally incarcerated and then also my son was murdered five years ago, I understand every aspect of everything that goes on inside the institutions, how parole works and then also the importance of rehabilitation. As it stands now, you know I don't I I guess I I'm a little frustrated with you know 'cause I get calls from people all around the state you know really wanting some recovery services, treatment services and the conditions you know we have this issue of drugs being trafficked inside the institution, people relapsing, living in an environment that is not rehabilitative and people not wanting to be use drugs but then the drugs are in their face and because addiction is a disease and will and want are two different things, it makes it very difficult for individuals to stay clean and sober in an environment that is not focused on restorative practices of rehabilitation. I I'm wondering if the board has ever looked into 'cause somebody that has experience, lost my son to murder, the man that killed my son, I would really like to see him have access to these rehabilitative programs, but unfortunately they are not available and because his sentence is long off, if they are available he does not have access to those programs because he has a long sentence, and there's limited beds and opportunities. I'm wondering if the board would be willing to actually look into what restorative justice practices look like, victim offender dialogues and allowing those that do not believe in retributive or lengthy sentences to be considered and be heard, I personally do not believe that longer sentences make somebody.. I don't think longer sentences increase public safety -it just says it- I mean statistically it's been proven to not do that, and I would really like to see more opportunities for rehabilitation changing the way that people think inside the institution and also it not being an us and them mentality, but that the parole board would work with community members that have lived experience and focusing on restorative practices. That’s just my feeling about it and I am wondering if the board would be willing to take that opportunity to look into that type of programming.
Edie Grunwald: One thing about the parole board is we’re at the end of the Justice chain, the post-conviction part of it. I think that DOC their policies maybe Jeff can help out here.. with Mr Edwards.. as far as before it even gets to us cause I mean as you know there’s a lot of value in what you’re saying. We see it. So, Mr. Edwards?
Jeff Edwards: Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate the question actually. It's a real struggle nationwide actually with programming and availability for inmates to address their issues, and it's a real focal point for Department of Correction agencies all around the world to be quite honest. Alaska has done over the recent years a pretty good job to be quite honest building, verifying and taking a look at what the best practice treatment programs are, evaluating their own practices, and implementing strategies to help these folks who are incarcerated identify the risk and their needs and then put programs in place. I'm so.. I guess my comment on that is the Department of Corrections in Alaska has done a pretty good job. I mean Covid aside, we had to go through some obstacles on that, but aside from that they offer really really strong solid programming in the facilities. Anywhere from sex offender treatment, substance abuse treatment, criminal thinking programs, so there's a long list. It was mentioned earlier by one of the board members, we don't necessarily have control over those programs or what’s implemented, how they're implemented, where they are implemented, who gets access to them, we’re just the evaluators of what the individual learns or fails to learn as they move through these programs. I hope that helps kind of gives a little bit more insight, but it is something that is a focus on this administration even though the looming budget cuts are out there, they still want to try and prioritize substance abuse treatment amongst other programs in the facilities to include education programs. So, I hope that helps.
Any other questions? There are no hands raised. Community Member I saw your hand raise up there. You’re muted.
Community Member: Thank you so much, so with regard to expectations for reintegration, so what do you expect an inmate to do specifically? I know you talked Ms. Grunwald, you talked a lot about you know what that looks like as far as what you're looking at to grant someone parole. I guess my question is specifically, what are you looking for to show that an inmate is ready to integrate back into society and to be able to be granted parole, because we are… you know I know looking at the severity of the crime is huge, I guess what I would just like to press upon in my question is with all due respect, the judge decides how much time an inmate does and the judge knows that they are eligible for parole after a third of their time, and it's the judge’s understanding that if an inmate does everything that is required through the DOC to rehabilitate themselves and has a plan to reintegrate back into the community and this is known when the sentences are given to the inmates, so why does the parole board feel that it's necessary to re-sentence an applicant based on the severity of their crime when that's already been determined by the courts?
Edie Grunwald: We pretty much covered all of this already! First off, we don't consider the sentence or the judge and if the judge has a crystal ball, you don't need us, the discretionary parole board right?! If they check the box it's over with! You know there’s three other criteria that we look at! We look at the prisoner will live and remain at liberty without violating laws or conditions imposed by the board, that's one! The second one is rehab and reintegration into society will be released will be furthered by release on parole, and the third one, the prisoner will not pose a threat of harm to the public if released! In addition to release of prisoner on parole would not diminish the seriousness of the crime, so there's four criteria there that we look at, not just the one, and a lot can happen while this person is incarcerated that the judge can't foresee or perceive is gonna happen like all those things that I talked about. You know disciplinary actions, you know where are they at with their OMP, did they learn anything, what’s the evidence that they either learned or didn't learn, what’s their supervision history in the past, how are they going… that's a predictor in some instances, how's it gonna be when when they released this time. We do look at their criminal history because it is a separate thing from sentencing, you know, so those are the things that we looked at, what are their release plans, is it solid, is it weak? I mean we have a lot of we give them a lot of grace, as much as we can. We don’t …we do as much as we can to help them get out there, we give them recommendations. You know how do the victim’s feel?! I haven't heard any questions except from Terria about victims! Where do they fit into this? Where’s the victim’s rights?!
Community Member: Sure, and so I will ask then how how much, what role do you see victim impact statements having in parole hearings, and how much weight do they have?
Edie Grunwald: I can’t give you a value number of how much impact, but again victim’s impact statement does play a role, if a victim participates, what they have to say, what type of letters, but we also look at the whole picture, that's only one part of them, so sometimes the inmate is really there and their ready to go forward and be productive and we have gone with a grant, with a date that you know might not be tomorrow, but within the year or two years, or so, so that the victim has some time to adjust, the inmate has time to adjust and all these different things that were mentioned during the parole hearing can be worked out. So, it’s not just a blatant deny, or sometimes it’s not a blatant grant. Does that make sense?
Community Member: Yes ma'am and with all due respect, a year or two is is a big difference to 10 years, and so that I just want to make that connection that that 10 year hit that you got that we've talked about that setoff, when someone's OMP complete, they've done everything they need to, we know in some of the groups that I've been listening to, that they've done everything that's required, they have victim impact statements that are favorable, and they received ten year hits and they were favorable by their PO’s, so we're here truly trying to just understand why, (E.G. “absolutely”) because those those that information is not being passed along to the inmates, and so that's why we're here trying to gather information to help them be more successful.
Edie Grunwald: Usually we try to really give the inmate as much information as we can during the parole board hearing so I’m a little bit surprised to hear that. I think a lot of people are shocked, disappointed, pissed, I mean not I mean which is expected when it’s either..again like Mr. Meyer said each case stands on its own. All of them have such different variables and that's why it's good to have five members on the board, each bring different perceptions and and to it and we discuss it and then we reach a vote. So, I mean we really do our best to keep the community safe and while also meeting the needs of the inmates, so it's just not as cut and dry and black and white as it might appear on paper. I promise it’s not.
Community Member: Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: And I have a hand up. Ms. Vandenhuerk again.
Terria Vandenhuerk: Hi, I have to jump off here in a minute because I have another meeting to go to. I just want to make a statement. I would just ask the parole board to consider during this time to allow individuals that do have substance abuse issues going on, and they don't have access to treatment, to look at the opportunities for individuals to parole, if they have a safe environment to go to, if they are assessed at 2.1 which is intensive outpatient, or if they are trying to parole to an inpatient, to consider that, especially during this time, and also, I'm all about solutions, and I would hope that you know, me personally, I would really like to be able to work hand in hand with the parole board. I did six years successfully without one violation on discretionary parole, and if somebody that has been successful in the community being able to share my story and collaborate with the parole board and DOC eventually, I would really like to share how I did it, and be an inspiration to other people, but also work with the parole board in determining whether somebody is you know a good candidate 'cause I'm pretty … honestly if the kid that killed my son, if he was to come up for parole, I would definitely look at what he's done with his time, to consider whether or not he’s a good candidate and I'm pretty tough when it comes to holding people accountable that have made poor choices while on parole or you know if they call me and say hey the parole board just give me 2 years for relapsing and I gotta go do some time then I tell them do everything you can possibly can to get get the help that you need in there and then you know focus on reentry you know and whenever you come back into the community. I don't know I just I participated in victim offender dialogue two years ago and CNN aired it or filmed it and it was aired on in a documentary called the Redemption Project and I would really like to talk to the parole board sometime, maybe even show you the documentary 'cause I have access to it, show you what I do and in the hopes that maybe later on we can kind of implement these types of programs and processes in our own state.
Jeff Edwards: Yeah, thank you Ms. Vandenhuerk, very well said very well stated, we appreciate your comments and appreciate your story. Well stated, thank you. We are coming up to the top of the hour. We have Ms. Hall, you have another question? go ahead…
Angela Hall: It's not a question, it’s just kind of a comment, you know there's this misconception that because some of us are here asking questions, and trying to clarify information for incarcerated loved ones, that we somehow are forgetting the victims in these cases, or you know not having feelings for the victims and that is not true, and I don't want members of the board to feel that the families completely shut out the victims from the entire picture, or the you know the entire process, that is not the case, but you know we only have a small window of time to ask questions and get clarification and that's the only reason why these questions seem to be centered around incarcerated persons, it is not a slight against family members, you know of victims, whatsoever, and I just want to clarify that. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: Great, thank you Ms. Hall, I certainly do appreciate your participation in the comments and questions you made today. It is noon at the top of the hour here, if anybody else has, wasn't able to ask a question and now’s the time. Or if you'd like to make a comment or statement, we're here willing to listen. Is that a hand raised Jeannie? I'm sorry your muted..
Jeannie: Can you hear me now?
Jeff Edwards: Oh yeah that's that pesky little mute button… got you.
Jeannie: Yes, I'm not very good at this sort of thing. I appreciate everything that the board has tried to explain to us, and.. but I am very concerned about the severity of the crime issue. I have a loved one who is incarcerated and he came up for parole the first time eight years ago, and his parole officer and all of the people at the institution recommended that he be out and the parole board at that time gave him 10 years and then reduced it to 8 years and gave him things for him to accomplish which he accomplished immediately, he's also accomplished a lot of other things, and then he came up for parole expecting that the parole board would even though they are different people, the parole board is still an institution and that they would feel that the recommendation that they had made 8 years ago would be considered, however the new parole officer was only concerned with the severity of the crime, I even communicated with her and she was not interested in any of the things that he had accomplished. So I believe that a lot more weight is given to that than the other three issues because he has accomplished all of those things, and so I'm very concerned about that because there.. I'm sure there are other inmates who have the same situation, and my concern is that it is supposed to be the Department of Correction not the Department of Retribution and there's a back story to the entire thing that never seems to come out of the persons who were murdered, my nephew was not involved, he did not kill the people he was found not guilty, but he was giving out given a long sentence because of the kidnapping and the robbery, so I I also go along with what some of the other people have said. That you know I wish the board would consider all four issues, more than just the severity of the crime issue, which he's not a murderer, so I'm not understanding why there wasn't a better outcome. Thank you.
Jeff Edwards: Thank you very much for your comment Jeannie. I really do appreciate that. Well I have another hand raised…Ms. Hall is your hand raised or is it carry over… thank you. It's 12:03 anybody else have questions or comments. It’s been a very nice dialogue. I think the board members really appreciate you guys participating. Some of the stories that you guys have shared, some of the comments that you've made, and the questions were on target and on task and I think there's a great appreciation for that and I hope that we provided a little bit of clarification if that was the intent to be participating in today's meeting. At any rate we do appreciate you guys spending the time with us and we're going to move forward and hopefully we get through this Covid stuff sooner rather than later. So with that, I'll leave it…unless there's any other…going once going twice. OK 12:04 thank you everybody appreciate it this will end the proceeding.