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SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 14
INTRODUCED BY S. BARTLETT, E. BERGSAGEL, A. BISHOP, C. CHRISTIAENS, L. GROSFIELD,
M. HALLIGAN, J. HARP, R. HOLDEN, B. MCCARTHY, D. MCGEE, W. MCNUTT, R. MENAHAN,
A. MOHL, D. WYATT, D. GRIMES, J. SHOCKLEY
A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MONTANA REQUESTING AN APPROPRIATE INTERIM COMMITTEE TO STUDY SENTENCING STATUTES, SENTENCING DATA INFORMATION COLLECTION AND MANAGEMENT, AND ISSUES RELATED TO SENTENCING.
WHEREAS, the Montana Sentencing Commission was formed in 1995 and after 18 months of study recommended continued work to develop an accurate database of criminal justice information and criminal sentencing practices, to determine what impacts sentencing laws and practices have on the state's criminal justice system and correctional resources, and to evaluate Montana's sentencing laws in order to achieve a simpler, more understandable sentencing system that results in consistent, effective, and fair administration of laws; and
WHEREAS, the 55th Legislature authorized a Correctional Standards and Oversight Committee for the 1997-1998 interim that continued to study sentencing issues and monitor the development of a sentencing database; and
WHEREAS, the Correctional Standards and Oversight Committee recommended legislation in the 1999 Legislature for an initial revision of statutes on criminal sentencing procedures in order to assist a future review of Titles 45 and 46, MCA; and
WHEREAS, the Correctional Standards and Oversight Committee report on the policies on good time credits indicated the belief that the Legislature needed to provide clearer statutory direction and parameters for sentencing and that an effort to review and revise sentencing statutes may be in order; and
WHEREAS, the 1995 Legislature adopted changes to sentencing laws that included ending good time credits for offenders and the dangerous offender law and enacted the two-strikes and three-strikes laws without critical data or analysis of the potential impact on the judicial system or correctional populations or resources; and
WHEREAS, the Legislature has appropriated significant funding to the Department of Corrections for technological purposes and the Legislative Finance Committee, the Legislative Audit Division, the Joint Oversight Committee on Management Systems, and the Correctional Standards and Oversight Committee have all raised concerns regarding the expenditure of those funds and the lack of progress and integration with other databases; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court Administrator's Office are also involved in criminal justice information management projects requiring oversight to ensure that integration and cooperation occurs among all agencies involved with court and criminal justice information; and
WHEREAS, certain members of the judiciary have asked for clearer direction from the Legislature and for the ability to use judicial discretion and creative sanctions in the sentencing of offenders.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
That the Legislative Council be requested to designate an appropriate interim committee to:
(1) develop a felony crime seriousness ranking that provides for public safety and appropriate restoration of the victim and that can serve as the basis of a rational sentencing policy in Montana;
(2) review the sentencing statutes in Titles 45 and 46, MCA, and statutes in other titles of the MCA that contain criminal sentences and determine the extent to which the current sentence ranges and penalties conform to Article II, section 28, of the Montana Constitution, the correctional and sentencing policy in 46-18-101, MCA, and the crime seriousness ranking;
(3) assess the impact of mandatory minimum sentences, truth-in-sentencing laws, two-strikes and three-strikes laws, and the elimination of good time credits on the criminal justice system, including the impacts on sentencing practices and correctional resources in the state;
(4) consider requiring a period of mandatory postrelease supervision for any offender who is incarcerated and estimate the impact of that policy on the parole resources of the state;
(5) examine the effect of allowing deferred sentences for crimes that must be committed two, three, or four times before reaching felony status;
(6) review the provisions for and the use of sentence enhancements;
(7) examine the current statutory provisions for sentence review by the sentence review board of the Supreme Court and assess the adequacy of those provisions and of the resources available for sentence review;
(8) review the use of correctional resources in the state, including but not limited to intermediate sanctions such as probation, intensive supervision, and prerelease centers, as well as the use of parole and the amount of time served in prison or jail out of the total sentence imposed;
(9) report the results of its work and recommend to the 57th Legislature changes needed in Titles 45 and 46, MCA, to achieve a consistent, effective, and rational sentencing system and to maximize the use of available correctional resources in the state, including intermediate sanctions, minimum security correctional facilities, and sentence review resources;
(10) review and monitor the implementation of databases that involve court and criminal justice data to ensure that integration and cooperation is occurring and that the databases being developed will provide the Legislature with information on sentencing practices, sentence disparities, offender populations, the use of correctional facilities, intermediate sanctions, parole, and other information needed for the Legislature to make informed policy decisions on the state's correctional and sentencing statutes and their fiscal impact on corrections and on funding for the criminal justice system and corrections programs.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that for the purposes of this study, subcommittees of the committee shall include, to the extent allowed by law, participants in the criminal justice system, including judges, probation and parole officers, law enforcement, victims, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the department of corrections, the board of crime control, county commissioners, and other interested parties.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislative Council may accept gifts, grants, donations, and other funding that may become available to assist in this study.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the committee hold public meetings around the state to gather public response and opinions on its work and recommendations for inclusion in the committee's deliberations, report, and recommendations.
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