Tracking serial abusers faces funding obstacles
Domestic abuse offenders who repeatedly violate temporary restraining orders could be forced to wear electronic monitors to alert authorities when they get too close to a victim, under a proposal being considered in the Legislature.
The concept, similar to legislation in a handful of other states, passed both chambers but could run into problems with funding.
The Judiciary has estimated the cost of the program to be about $1.4 million a year, said Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee.
Victims' advocates say they are working with lawmakers, prosecutors and other officials to determine exactly how many people would be affected and whether the cost estimates are accurate.
"This is a very specific group of people we're trying to address," said Ana Maring, an educator with the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "The numbers aren't going to be very large."
Under current law, repeat offenders face a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.
The proposal in Senate Bill 2218 would allow the court to determine whether an offender should be required to wear a Global Positioning System device. The court would then set up "geographic exclusion zones," such as a victim's home or workplace. The device would alert authorities if the offender entered an exclusion zone.
The bill states that the court could force offenders to bear the cost of the electronic monitor, estimated at between $4 to $5 a day.
Opponents to the measure, including the Office of the Public Defender, have cited price as the main concern, noting that the state would have to pick up the cost for indigent defendants.
The public defender also raised concerns over privacy and who would have access to information.
"Will the tracking device keep a record of all travel done by a defendant, even if it is not within the excluded area?" the public defender asked in testimony on the bill. "Will such information be available to law enforcement or to a complainant?"
Different versions of the proposal have passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
A final version, which would include the cost to the state, would have to be worked out by a joint House-Senate conference committee.
Conferees met yesterday but deferred a decision, noting that any action would require approval from the Legislature's money committees.
The proposal faces an uphill battle for state dollars, as lawmakers seek to fund essential services amid a slowing economy and a reduced revenue forecast.
Shimabukuro (D, Waianae-Makua) said getting the proposal passed could require creative steps, such as imposing a cap on the amount of state dollars that can be put toward the project.