Oklahoma Senate approves electronic monitoring expansion for nonviolent offenders

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that will help more nonviolent offenders qualify for the Electronic Monitoring Program passed out of the Senate unanimously late Tuesday evening (March 2). The proposal garnered 43 yes votes. 

Senate Bill 456’s author, Sen. Bill Coleman, said the measure was needed to correct an oversight in state law that left inmates sentenced between five and ten years unable to participate in home monitoring.

“This bill will help address our overcrowded prisons and lower incarceration costs by allowing this group of nonviolent offenders to complete the remainder of their sentences at home, where they can return to the workforce and help support themselves and their families,” Coleman said in a press release this week sent to CapitolBeatOK.com, The City Sentinel newspaper and other news organizations. 
“It’ll also ensure that those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens — our children and senior citizens — won’t be eligible for the program.”

The Ponca City Republican explained the bill prohibits those convicted of child abuse and neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, some instances of which are considered nonviolent crimes, from participating in the program.

In a February release concerning the bill, Coleman said: 
“Current law inadvertently left certain nonviolent offenders sentenced between five and ten years unable to participate in the Electronic Monitoring Program. This was an oversight that needs to be corrected to allow more nonviolent offenders the ability to serve out the remainder of their sentence at home with their families. This not only helps reconnect families and get these individuals back into the workforce, it also helps lower incarceration costs and overcrowding in our prison system.”

S.B. 456 also adds inmates convicted on counts relating to child abuse and neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult to the list of individuals deemed ineligible to be placed in the Electronic Monitoring Program. 

“While GPS monitoring is a good way to help most nonviolent offenders serve the remainder of their sentence at home, it’s not appropriate or safe for predators who have victimized children and vulnerable senior citizens,” Coleman said. 
“Electronic monitoring only tracks offenders’ location, not who they’re around or what they’re doing — meaning when they return home, they may still be in close proximity of the individual they hurt or exploited, possibly putting the victim in danger or causing them undue stress and anxiety. We must protect our most vulnerable citizens from those who would prey on them.”
Participation in the Electronic Monitoring Program is not automatic. Inmates must apply to get into the program and meet numerous eligibility standards prior to enrollment. 

The measure, which was requested by the Department of Corrections, now heads to the House where Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie, is the House principal author.