Angel introduces sex offender tracking bill
February 6, 2009 · 10:56 AM
The ability to track the whereabouts of sex offenders using GPS technology is the topic of a bill introduced by this week freshman Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard).
“This is a public safety issue,” Angel said. “These are bad people. If they don’t abide by the law, then I want to nail them.”
Additionally, Angel has introduced a bill to modify the language that refers to those with mental disabilities with less-judgmental terms. These bills are the first in this year’s session where Angel is the prime sponsor.
House Bill 1834 would require electronic GPS monitoring of all Level 3 sex offenders and sex offenders who are registered as homeless, transient, or have a prior conviction of failing to register.
Angel said the notification process about released sex offenders is ineffective and inefficient. Many released Level 3 sex offenders lack a fixed residence, and may be living out of their cars, under a bridge or even in an area frequented by children.
Attaching a GPS to each released offender would allow the authorities to track locations in real time, and determine whether the subject was in proximity to a school.
The cost of such a measure is a sticking point, especially in the current budget climate. Here, Angel has become acquainted with a legislative anomaly, how it is necessary to propose a bill without knowing exactly how much it will cost the taxpayers.
While Angel has submitted a “fiscal note” to provide a cost estimate, it may or may not be ready when the bill is addressed by the Legislature.
One certainty is that the state will need to fund the entire cost of the program and not require the offender to pay a partial fee, as is done with mechanisms that prevent DUI offenders to blow into a tube before they start the car.
“These guys have been in prison for quite a while and have no source of income,” Angel said. “It will be hard for them to get a job in the first place, and I don’t think they will have the ability to pay the cost of these devices.”
Cost notwithstanding, not implementing the program can be more expensive at a later date. An improperly monitored sex offender can re-offend, incurring incarceration costs along with ruining the lives of victims.
House Bill 1835 would remove sections in state law that include the words “mental retardation” and would replace them with the term, “intellectual disability.”
Angel said the cost of this bill is negligible, since there are already people in place who are charged with maintaining and modifying state code.
“This isn’t just political correctness,” Angel said. “In these cases we are dealing with an infirmity that people are unable to correct. If we continue to call them something hateful, they will continue to feel like second-class citizens.”
Angel acknowledges that the state cannot legislate attitudes or prejudices, but can implement a certain amount of personal respect into its written regulations.
“The treatment of the mentally ill has changed,” she said. “Unfortunately, much of the language has not. When it comes to how we affect people's feelings, their lives and self esteem, the verbiage that is used is very important.”