On Tuesday, representatives from the state of Texas listened to testimony supporting and opposing a new bill that would make it a felony to damage or disconnect an ankle monitor.
It is one of several bills that State Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) has proposed as a response to the shooting at Dallas Methodist Hospital a year ago, in which two healthcare workers were killed.
Nestor Hernandez, who was free on parole at the time of the murders of Jacqueline Pokuaa and Katie Flowers in October 2022, was arrested and charged with the most severe murder. After removing his ankle monitor, Hernandez was remanded to jail for one hundred days during the summer of 2017.
To violate the law by tampering with a monitor is considered a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense under the current legal framework.
“By changing it to a law violation I think it clearly sends a message to the offenders out there that it’s going to be reviewed harshly by the legislature and by the parole board,” said Tim McDonald of the Board of Pardons and Paroles Tuesday.
On the other hand, Jennifer Toon, an advocate for people released from prison, argued that making it a felony won’t stop someone intent on committing some criminal activity. A youtube video is given about Texas lawmakers debate bill to make damaging, disconnecting GPS monitor a crime.
“The real problem with GPS ankle monitors, whether used for pre-trial probation or parole, all seem to center on the supervising officers and the equipment,” said Toon.
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Lawmakers questioned the parole division about its ability to monitor the effectiveness of the devices.
“We keep track of the alert type, but we don’t always manually or individually track the results to determine whether there was a human or equipment error. We either react to the mistake or the person attempting to remove it. We may not continuously monitor it internally, “said Rene Hinojosa, director of the Parole Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
KXAN News tweeted that Currently, it is only a parole violation to tamper with or destroy an ankle monitor. You can see below:
Currently, it is only a parole violation to tamper with or destroy an ankle monitor. https://t.co/VcUKbFa8bC
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) March 21, 2023
State Representative Carl Sherman (D-Lancaster) emphasized the significance of that information for the legislation’s evaluation.
“I think, again, it’s a good piece of legislation that, Lord’s will, l we can avoid what happened with Methodist Hospital in Dallas and protect a lot of people,” Rep. Sherman said. “But we want to be accurate.”
Before a bill is brought to the floor for a final vote, it must pass out of committee. The legislation that was discussed on Tuesday is still in committee.