Senate approves Rep. Matt Shea’s electronic home monitoring accountability bill
The Washington State Senate gave unanimous approval today (Wednesday) to a measure prime-sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea that would establish tougher new accountability standards for convicts under the state's electronic home monitoring program.
House Bill 1943 was amended on the Senate floor with some technical changes, but mostly stayed intact as it was sent back to the House for concurrence, said Shea, R-Spokane Valley.
Shea first became involved in working for reforms after The Freedom Foundation revealed through a three-part series of reports in September 2013 that “potentially dangerous offenders could be roaming Washington's streets when they're supposed to be confined to their homes.” Several months later, Seattle television station KING-5 reported in its “Home Free” investigation 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.
“It has been really out of control. 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. “This was not only an injustice of the system, but the lack of accountability put a lot of innocent people at risk while criminals who were supposed to be under home detention walked around free.”
Among other things, the bill would:
- Prohibit home detention for offenders who have previously violated the terms of a home detention program;
- Require monitoring agencies to notify the court and other entities within 24 hours when a monitored individual is unaccounted for, or beyond an approved location for 24 consecutive hours;
- Require monitoring agencies to notify the court or other entities when there are known violations of electronic monitoring;
- Prohibit pre-trial home detention for offenders who have a prior
conviction for a violent or sex offense; and
- Provide that a person who knowingly violates the terms of home detention is guilty of “escape in the third degree;” and
- Allow courts to fine monitoring agencies up to $1,000 per violation for failing to comply with monitoring requirements.
The 4th District lawmaker said passage of the measure is a victory for increased public safety and for better peace of mind for victims of those sentenced to electronic home detention.
“This is a culmination of months of work to fix a broken system that was putting innocent people at risk and letting off criminals to freely roam the streets,” said Shea. “This ensures that monitoring companies keep a closer watch on the convict. It ensures that anyone on the program who cuts off an ankle bracelet can be charged with escape and have their privileges revoked. And it injects some badly-needed accountability into the system so that we can protect our communities and neighborhoods, and keep families safe.”
With the House likely to concur with the Senate amendment, the bill will be sent to the governor for his consideration. The measure is scheduled to become effective 90 days after the end of the regular session. The final day of the 105-day regular session is April 26.
###Washington State House Republican Communications