Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Silent March for Good Samaritan; GPS tracking now law

A silent march around the State Capitol will be held at 5:30 p.m. to remember Steven Wilcox, 19, who was allegedly stabbed to death outside a Waimanalo karaoke bar. Witnesses of the crime said that Wilcox was attempting to stop a domestic abuse situation. Participants are asked to meet street-side, near the Father Damien statue.

This recent tragedy has stirred up talk in the media about legislation that had or had not passed out this session. The Good Samaritan bill (SB3182), which did not make it through the legislative process, would have increased sentencing for anyone convicted of assaulting a Good Samaritan.

Another bill, SB2218 SD1 HD2 CD1, creating a two-year pilot program to allow courts to order violators of domestic violence temporary restraining orders to where a GPS tracking device was signed into law yesterday by the Governor as ACT 180 (08). Requiring offenders to wear the electronic tracking device will be at the discretion of the judge and at the expense of the offender.

Rep. Marilyn Lee, the lawmaker who introduced the House companion bill, rose in support of the bill during a voting session on the House floor, recounting a story of appreciation from a woman who suffered domestic violence abuse. She said:

"I recently received a letter from a woman who thanked me for proposing this bill. This woman was in a physically abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend for over ten years. In December 2002, he beat her so severely that she finally realized he would eventually kill her. This woman took positive steps in mitigating the situation by enrolling in programs at the Family Peace Center. The Center offers programs for adults and children in order to provide peace to Hawaii's families by offering safety, support, empowerment and accountability to survivors, offenders and child witnesses to domestic violence. She chose the Maluhia Victim/Survivor Family Component program that serves survivors of domestic violence. This loving mother chose for her daughter, the Haupoa Family Component program that works with children who have witnessed domestic violence in the family. Although it has been five years since the temporary restraining order was granted, she still has "encounters" with the ex-boyfriend. This woman and her daughter still fear for their safety and as a consequence, have curtailed public outings. This woman's story has touched me so much. Now, more than ever, I definitely believe an electronic monitoring device will serve as an additional tool that would assist the court in protecting victims and their children's safety. I urge the members to support this bill."
To a different effect, Rep. Cindy Evans voted "yes" on the bill, but had concerns about the devices false sense of safety and its high financial cost. This is what she had to say:

"First, the technology for electronic monitoring is improving, but there are many areas around the State where GPS cannot pick up the signal to determine the location of the individual. Thus, a victim of abuse may become too confident on the monitoring system and stop taking necessary precautions to protect themselves. Second, the cost for the individual to wear an electronic monitoring device is estimated at $25 per day. If one wants to get a warning on their cellular phone that the individual wearing the device is nearby, there is another charge of up to $25 a day. I'm concerned the cost is too high. The technology continues to improve and maybe we are premature in thinking this device will keep someone safe. For these reasons, I'm in support with some concerns."

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