Following the recent abduction and murder of Sarah Foxwell, I have been asked by several folks "what is the best way to deal with sex offenders once they are released from prison?"
I have also seen the finger of blame pointed at light sentences handed out by judges and a failure of legislators to craft tougher laws.
The current system in place as crafted by our legislators is, ironically, an "honor"-based system. Sex offender registrants are required to report in person every six months to their local sheriff's office to verify their registration. They are required to report any address changes within seven days. The same is true for their place of employment.
Once information is provided, the sheriff's office will physically verify their address and contact their employer for confirmation.
This all sounds fairly strict, and it is a far cry from what we did 20 years ago (no monitoring), but in no way are we currently "tracking" registrants.
While we have the technology to perform 24/7 monitoring of child sex offenders for the rest of their lives, we also have liberal legislators who would rather protect the bad guys at the expense of our most precious and vulnerable citizens.
Those registrants classified as child sex offenders and predators should be required to wear GPS tracking equipment with the option of having a chip installed subcutaneously. This is not altogether different than the technology utilized for in-home detention (often utilized with juvenile offenders). Unauthorized removal or tampering with the system would be classified as a felony carrying a mandatory five-year sentence.
Built-in alerts in the mapping software could be established around schools and other locations where children are known to congregate or where the registrant is otherwise not allowed.
Equipment expenses would be the responsibility of the offender, and Maryland should be the first state in the union to make it a reality. Offender locations could be known in real time, and when a child is missing, every second is critical.
I am tired of hearing excuses from lawmakers. If we are serious about protecting our kids, this is the place to start. Lengthy mandatory sentences are OK, but they do nothing to help once the offender is released from prison. You can physically see an offender once a day for an hour, but you still won't know where he is for the remaining 23 hours without GPS tracking. A western shore child predator who takes a weekend trip to Ocean City is not a blip on our radar, but that could change under these provisions.
I predict that, once implemented, Maryland would see a mass exodus of sex offender registrants to states with fewer restrictions. What could be bad about that? Let's at least start with the predators and repeat offenders; then expand the program over the next few years.
There are those who will think this type of monitoring is unduly harsh and intrusive. I simply ask you to go to the final resting place of Sarah Foxwell and tell it to her. She will never be able to cast a vote for this type of change, but, to those who remain, it is our duty to get the job done.