Sat, Jan 22, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Tracking system planned for paroled sex offenders

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The amendment to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) passed the third reading in the Legislative Yuan yesterday, and womens rights activists said that the focus of the amendment was to set up an electronic tracking system, which could monitor paroled sex offenders.

According to Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容), executive director of the Garden of Hope Foundation, the electronic tracking system will be designed to prevent paroled criminals from becoming recidivists, and to help them regain their self-control.

"When paroled sexual criminals approach places they are prohibited from entering, such as parks, schools or public restrooms where potential victims like women and children often appear, the beeping of electronic tracking devices will not only inform people about the potential danger, but the sound will also work as a reminder to sex offenders that they should leave the area immediately and control their behavior," Chi said.

In a press conference held by the foundation and some female lawmakers yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chou Ching-yu (周清玉), one of the key supporters the amendment, said that the act, which requires some sex offenders on parole to register with local police departments and wear electronic tracking devices, is a practical law.

"I want to congratulate you on the passage of the amended act, which is very useful for protecting women in Taiwan. However, the government at all levels and the public should work together in carrying out this act, so that the law can really benefit people," Chou said.

Under the amended act, paroled sex offenders will either be restricted from certain areas or be put under a curfew, and will be asked to wear an electronic tracking device. Receivers installed in the places where parolees are prohibited from entering will react when parolees approach within 5m to 15m of the area and will sound an alarm.

In addition to the electronic tracking system, the amendment will also require parolees to report their whereabouts and background to local police. The information will only be available to some police officers.

In addition, criminals with mental problems will receive forced treatment, and the treatment period will not be limited to three years, but will continue until the recidivism rate declines. It was not immediately clear how this would be determined.

In response to criticism that the tracking devices and the registration of background information is a violation of parolees' human rights, Chi said that the devices will not beep when parolees go to "other places." Besides, Chi said, helping sex offenders maintain better self-control using the devices would prevent them from repeating their offenses.

"An electronic tracking system is an effective way to help parolees with high recidivism rates remind themselves to control their desires. Therefore the system should not be viewed as a device that violates human rights. Instead, I think it is a useful system to protect parolees' human rights by preventing themselves from having to go to jail again," Chi said.

Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙), a judge with the Taiwan High Court, said that in the future, law enforcement officers will need to file an application with prosecutors before they can require parolees to wear tracking devices.

The electronic tracking system will be paid for by the Ministry of Justice. How long parolees will have to wear tracking devices, what kind of institutions will be authorized to install tracking receivers and how to trace parolees if they take off the device and run away are as of yet undecided.

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