Governor Jim Doyle signed a bill on May 22, 2006 that requires GPS monitoring for certain child molesters. The vote to implement lifetime tracking was approved by a unanimous vote of 90-0 in the state senate. What cannot be agreed on is how much the program will actually cost or how many people will be tracked.
The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel website posted figures, on September 17, 2006, giving a two year cost of $3.5 million to track 875 paroled prisoners. On September 19, 2006 the same website posted a two year cost of $23.7 million to track over 1,500 parolees for the first two years.
Author of the bill, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, says that the cost of implementing the bill has been ?clearly over inflated.? Suder says that the GPS system can also be used to handle other departmental duties which will save the state money. He also recommends that those being tracked be charged with some of the cost.
?There?s a cost for having additional monitoring and housing individuals who are deemed sexually violent, but I will be the first in line to find money to keep those individuals behind bars.?
Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, calls the measures ?extreme? but necessary to protect the public.
Suder and Dean mimic the mantra, familiar for most of this legislative session, calling for increased punishment for sex offenders. However, the inflated punitive measure comes at a time when all other agencies have been requested to decrease their budgets by 10 percent.
Among those being asked to trim budget dollars are health care programs for the working poor, the elderly and the disabled.
Helene Nelson, secretary of the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) points out that the requested reductions come at a time when Medicaid programs are growing and federal dollars are declining.
Wording for the new bill targets sex offenders who assault children under 12 or those who use threats of violence during a child-related sex offense. Legislation was also passed to increase penalties for sex offenders and to expand the definition of the phrase ?sexually violent person.? The new definition would require an extra $3.7 million in funding for the DHFS.
Prisoners under the new monitoring law, who are released to parole, probation or extended supervision would be required to wear the satellite monitors for life. The only exception is made for prisoners who can apply to be taken off the monitor 20 years after their parole, probation or supervision is completed.
Conservative estimates put the immediate cost at $1.2 million to track 285 releasees the first year and $2.3 million to track an additional 570 the second year. However, at least one alternative reports that the first and second year numbers are actually 581 and 956 releasees respectively.
Despite the increased costs, sex offender bills are enjoying bipartisan support. Rep. Anthony Staskunas, D-West Allis, contributed wording that restricted locations where the most violent sex offenders could live.
Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, called for a study that would follow up location-related problems with parolees reentering the community.
Source: Journal Sentinel
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