Monday, November 21, 2005

Surprise! Electronic monitoring isn't realtime

From the "Bought a pig in a poke" department:
Legislators find sex offenders not monitored in "real time"

by O.Kay Henderson

A new Iowa law requires electronic monitoring of those who're on parole after serving time for a sex crime against a child, but no sex offender in the state is being monitored in "real time."

That was a surprise to legislators like Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, who convened hearing at the statehouse to examine Iowa's new sex offender law. "We had the perception that with the bracelet system that we would have real time monitoring which would provide us with instant, pro-active protection for the public," Horbach says. "Many of the information transfers that we're receiving from the bracelets are one business day later, meaning 24 hours after the fact."

Horbach says lawmakers thought that by requiring electronic bracelets, cops would be able to stop a sex offender in his tracks if he entered a school. Instead, the electronic monitoring that's being done can assist in prosecuting someone after they've committed a sex crime, but does little to try to stop the crime in progress. "I think you'll see the legislature take a very strong look and a very pro-active look when we come back in January to get more offenders on the GPS active system which will provide real-time protection to the public. They demand it and so will the legislature," Horbach says. Most of the ankle bracelets that paroled sex offenders are wearing merely report whether the sex offender is in his home, or at his job, and the lease on that bracelet is less than three dollars a day.

Horbach concedes a real-time monitor would be more costly. "For the protection that we're demanding...the $7 cost will be considered, but in no way will it be a detriment," Horbach says. "I think that we are going to have to demand that we use that bracelet, even at double the cost." Horbach says legislators will let Department of Corrections officials decide which sex offenders should wear the more-expensive devices. "Protection is the highest demand from the public," Horbach says. "We need to make sure (the Department of Corrections) errs on the side of safety."

Dave Spencer of Elkhart served time five years in prison for sexually abusing a minor and he's asking legislators to toss out the new restrictions that call for electronic monitoring and restrict where sex offenders may live. Spencer says there's no statistical evidence that electronic monitoring has ever prevented a crime, and he says there's no connection between where a person lives and whether he or she will commit a crime. "Tough talk really doesn't make good law," Spencer says.

Spencer calls the new restriction that bans sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school or day care a form of "banishment" that's unconstitutional. "It's more and more difficult for sex find housing, to find jobs, to find inclusion in the community which does absolutely nothing for making a better, safer society or for restoring the mental and physical health of victims," Spencer says. Spencer testified this(Wednesday) afternoon before a House/Senate committee examining Iowa's new sex offender law.

Representative James Van Fossen, a retired policeman from Davenport who's a member of the committee, says he has no sympathy for sex offenders and no inclination to make the law more lenient.


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