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GPS Tracking For Domestic Abuse Offenders

By   /   June 2, 2011  /   No Comments

By Kate Elizabeth Queram

Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — People who repeatedly violate domestic violence restraining orders soon could  pay a fee so the state can track their movements and law enforcement can respond quickly before someone gets hurt or even killed.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations on Thursday heard testimony on a proposal that would give courts the option to require round-the-clock GPS tracking for repeat restraining order offenders who are deemed “high-risk,” a classification determined by a list of qualifying criteria.

“The goal of the legislation is to help protect victims of domestic violence and domestic abuse in our state,” said state Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, the bill’s co-sponsor. “It also provides peace of mind to the victim in the situation.”

The legislation is more commonly known as Cindy’s Law, named after Illinois resident Cynthia Bischof, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2008.

The ex-boyfriend violated a restraining order to kill Bischof, according to media reports. Following her death, Bischof’s family began pushing for GPS monitoring laws. Since Bischof’s death, similar legislation passed in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, according to the Cynthia L. Bischof Memorial Foundation website.

Under the bill’s provisions, once an offender is outfitted with a tracking device, the state Department of Corrections, or DOC, would monitor his movement and then alert the victim and local law enforcement if he enters a restricted area as outlined in his restraining order — such as the victim’s home or workplace.

The DOC most likely would contract with an outside organization to help with monitoring, which is how it tracks sex offenders, said Linda Eggert, a department spokeswoman.

But that cost, according to the bill, would lie entirely with the offenders, which some of the legislation’s backers said was a crucial provision.

“If it’s not paid for by the individual offender … our support can turn 180 degrees rather quickly here,” said Jeff Wiswell, public affairs counsel for the Wisconsin Sheriff’s and Deputy Sheriff’s Association, who testified in support of the bill.

To fund the service, all restraining order violators — even those who aren’t subjected to GPS tracking — would pay a $200 surcharge upon conviction. That money would be funneled into a general fund that would be used to pay for tracking services for any offenders who couldn’t afford it.

Those, whom the court deems able, would pay the nearly $19 per day, Zipperer said.

Eggert said the DOC has no per diem cost for its current GPS tracking.

The department is drafting a fiscal estimate for the bill, she said, and will have no official position on the legislation until that document is made public Friday.

No one testified against the bill in Wisconsin, but fathers’ rights groups have expressed skepticism over protection orders in different states, particularly those involving monitoring.

Mark Charalambous, a spokesman for the Fatherhood Coalition in Massachusetts, called protection orders “a license to dehumanize somebody,” according to a 2008 Chicago Tribune article. The coalition is a nonprofit that advocates for fathers’ rights.

The bill most likely will be voted on in committee next week, after which it goes to the Senate.

This past year, the legislation passed the Assembly committee by a 9-0 vote, but was never given a floor vote by the full Assembly.

But the bill has had continuous bipartisan support, and Zipperer said he believed lawmakers’ familiarity with the legislation would help it pass this year.

“We’ve had bipartisan support in past sessions of the legislature as well,” he said. “So I think it has a good chance.”