Task force raises funds for electronic monitoring in domestic violence cases

Posted Oct. 03, 2012, at 4:25 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 04, 2012, at 3:46 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — The tragic deaths of Amy Bagley and her two children in 2011 has sparked a movement to equip those accused of domestic violence crimes with an electronic monitoring device.

Those who knew and loved Bagley and her two children, Coty and Monica — who were slain by Bagley’s estranged husband, who then killed himself — believe the tragedy could have been averted if the state had an electronic monitoring system to track the movements of those charged with a domestic violence crime as part of their bail conditions.

The Dexter community held a Race/Walk to End Domestic Violence in June that raised $18,000 for starting an electronic monitoring system. The state supplemented the fund with a $500 donation for the purpose of attracting private donations. The community-led effort hopes the fund will be used to support tougher domestic violence laws in the state. Such laws could include requiring ankle monitoring devices to be worn by domestic violence defendants on bail and by those who have been served with a protection from abuse order.

The fund reached $36,500 in July when Gov. Paul LePage donated $18,000 from his office’s contingency fund. LePage later commissioned a task force to consider ways of implementing the technology into the judicial system.

He named seven members to his Task Force to Reduce Domestic Violence Through Technology.

The task force members include Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris and Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte. There are also state prosecutors, as well as representatives of the attorney general’s and information technology offices, statewide organizations dedicated to ending domestic violence, and police chiefs associations.

Now that a pot of money and the task force are in place, the challenge that remains is how Maine will become the 41st state to implement an electronic monitoring system. The task force has held several meetings since March discussing how to implement the system.

The task force met with several representatives from domestic victims’ advocates groups last month in Augusta at the request of Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport. He invited Womancare Community Relations Coordinator Art Jette, who is also a member of the Department of Corrections Victims Advisory Group, to monitor the task force’s progress.

The discussion was focused on the type of monitoring system the state should implement using the donated funds. The group discussed methods used by other states in an effort to determine which system was the best fit for Maine. Some members also considered using the devices for paroling low-level criminals.

As the discussion moved toward using the devices for nondomestic violence purposes, both Jette and Fredette expressed concerns. Jette believes the funds raised by the Dexter community and donated by LePage were made for the specific purpose of protecting domestic violence victims.

“I think the community made it perfectly clear how they wanted the funds to be used,” Jette said. “I don’t think there was any desire from the task force not to use the money for domestic violence safety purposes. But I hope future meetings will emphasize using the funds for what they were raised for.”

The task force is due to issue a final report by Dec. 15 about how the funds will be spent. The recommendation may include a series of pilot programs operated throughout the state to monitor its effectiveness. The task force may also use a small portion of the proceeds to hire a consultant to oversee the program’s implementation.

The task force will make a recommendation to Ponte, who will oversee how the $36,000 will be spent. Department of Corrections officials indicated that the task force is still considering several options for implementing the system.

“The task force will be ready to make a recommendation to the governor by Dec. 15. It will be one recommendation with a string of all the components on the best way to get this instituted,” said Gregory Couture, special assistant to Ponte. “Nothing has been finalized. We are still working on completing our report to the governor.”

Neither Fredette nor Jette are task force members. The two men don’t plan on attending the task force’s next meeting on Oct. 4.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the last name of the Department of Corrections commissioner. His name is Joseph Ponte, not Aponte.

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