AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has agreed to match an $18,000 donation to fund a task force to explore electronic monitoring systems for domestic violence offenders.
At a press conference at the State House on Friday morning, Kelley Gay presented the governor with the money that was raised from the Amy, Coty, Monica Memorial 5K race/walk held in Dexter last month. With LePage’s contribution, the amount now in the governor’s task force fund totals $36,500.
“This is really something that we need to do,” said LePage of electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders. “Domestic violence — it is just a horrible, horrible and horrific crime. It takes innocent people — children and parents — and puts them in fear for their lives to the point where it does take their lives.”
LePage noted that of the 48 homicides in Maine in 2010 and 2011, 21 of them were a result of domestic violence.
Amy Lake and her two children, Coty and Monica, were murdered by her estranged husband, Steven, in their Dexter home in June 2011. Steven Lake then killed himself.
Gay, who is a kindergarten teacher at Ridge View Community School in Dexter, worked with Amy Lake, who also was a teacher. Gay said 700 people participated in the road race.
“That kind of shows the magnitude of the grief that is going on in the town of Dexter and the state of Maine with the loss of these three people,” said Gay.
Amy’s parents, Ralph and Linda Bagley, were on hand for Friday’s press conference.
“I’ve said this right from the start, this is the only thing that would’ve saved her,” said Ralph Bagley, referring to electronic monitoring bracelets. “This would’ve warned her ahead of time that he was in the area. He wouldn’t have been in the area unless he was up to something.”
Also present Friday was Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, who presented a bill during the previous Legislature that called for electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders. The measure failed to pass in committee, he said.
“If I’m re-elected for the next session, this will be my top priority bill to bring in the Legislature,” said Fredette, who is in his first term.
Don Grimes, regional sales manager for Houston-based Satellite Tracking of People LLC, explained how his company’s electronic monitoring systems work.
“This device is worn by an individual on the ankle. It has a fiber-optic band in case they decide to cut it off,” said Grimes, explaining that if the device is tampered with, the company, police and even the victim can be notified. “We know where this individual that is wearing this device [is] 24/7.
“We have a stalker alert,” continued Grimes. “We’ll make these zones where we don’t want them to be. We can make these areas as large as we want. If they would go into that area, the authorities would be immediately notified. Also, the victim would have a device about the size of a garage door opener, and that device would notified them if somebody is in the area as well.”
Grimes said the price of having such devices depends on volume. California is using 8,000 of them. Maine is one of only four states not using electronic monitoring devices, according to Fredette. The price per person per day to have an electronic monitor is about $4.50, Grimes said.
“If the Maine people really want to see [domestic violence] eradicated … then we have to, as a people, stand up and say domestic abuse is socially unacceptable, as we’ve done with drunk driving, and we can get a handle on this crime,” said LePage.
Fredette said the ankle monitor also could be used on high-risk sex offenders and low-risk people in jail.
“If you have 100 people in a county jail or a state prison who are low-risk people, instead of having them there and paying $150 a day, send them home, and pay $5 [instead],” said Fredette. “It’s a matter of identifying that you have technology and you have to use it. It not only saves lives, it saves money. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”
A member of the audience questioned LePage’s backing of electronic monitoring given his stance on less government.
“I don’t think you’ve ever heard me say that I support criminals,” said LePage.