House approves Rep. Matt Shea’s bill to set stricter standards on electronic home monitoring
A measure that would establish tougher new accountability standards for convicts under the state's electronic home monitoring program passed the House of Representatives Monday, 96-1.
Rep. Matt Shea, prime sponsor of House Bill 1943, said the measure is the culmination of months of work by him and other members of the House Public Safety Committee, following investigations by the Freedom Foundation and KING-5 News which revealed lax accountability of criminals on home detention.
“There were reports of offenders going on vacation, drinking in bars, or actually buying time off the clock from the monitoring companies to look the other way,” said Shea, R-Spokane Valley.
The KING-5 Home Free investigation reported that while on electronic home monitoring, offenders stole a Seattle ferry, kidnapped a six-year-old Seattle girl and murdered a 13-year-old girl in Vancouver.
“The system is broken and public safety is at risk because there's no accountability,” said Shea. “This bill seeks to close these loopholes and make sure offenders on electronic home monitoring are actually being detained and monitored.”
Among other things, House Bill 1943 would:
- Redefine home detention to require presence in a private residence 24 hours a day, unless otherwise authorized by the court;
- Prohibit home detention for offenders who have previously violated the terms of a home detention program;
- Require monitoring agencies to notify certain agencies of violations of home
detention, verify monitored individuals' locations on a regular basis, have
policies for contingency plans and conflicts of interest, and meet background check requirements;
- Prohibit pre-trial home detention for offenders who have a prior
conviction for a violent, sex, or escape offense; and
- Provide that a person who knowingly violates the terms of home detention is guilty of “escape in the third degree.”
For the first time, monitoring agencies that do not comply with the law could be subject to civil penalties if the bill passes the Legislature and becomes law. Shea said that's important, because it finally enacts accountability not only among offenders, but among unscrupulous home monitoring companies.
“There are good companies that properly monitor and report offender violations, and then there are the bad ones that have been able to make a lot of money, but allow the offender to go free. Until now, there have been no minimum professional standards a company must meet in order to be considered as a program monitor. And there have been no penalties for lack of reporting violations,” said Shea. “This legislation will sift out the bad companies and ensure proper monitoring for the safety of the public.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.
Photo caption: Last June, Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, held a workshop in Burien with the House Public Safety Committee to work on legislation that would enact accountability standards in the state's electronic home monitoring program.
###Washington State House Republican Communications