30 Laws in 30 Days: More paroled sex offenders will have GPS anklets for life

A GPS locator worn on the ankle of a parolee on Aug. 3, 2009 (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Ashley Shuler

INDIANAPOLIS (Statehouse File) – Detectives called him a master manipulator.

But Joseph Anderson’s scheming came to an end when a man called the Department of Child Services to report Anderson had shown him a screenshot of himself and a 9-year-old boy performing sex acts on each other.

After months in court, Anderson — who had already served prison time for two child sex cases and got out in 2010 — was convicted last August to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to three felony counts of child molestation involving four children.

Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, was propelled to write Senate Enrolled Act 38 after seeing headlines in the South Bend Tribune about Anderson’s conviction and other admitted crimes of molesting another 34 local, vulnerable children over many years.

“It gave me a need to author something for greater oversight,” he said.

Zakas also sees the law as another way to improve Indiana’s criminal laws and protect Hoosiers, a focus he has held throughout his 35 years in the Senate.

“Public safety is one of the most important things legislators do,” Zakas said. “We have a right to be safe in our homes and neighborhoods.”

The law, which was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb and goes into effect July 1, does two things:

  • Increases oversight of violent sex offenders after risk assessments
  • Closes a loophole that allowed sex offenders to wipe a misdemeanor off their record

Monitoring offenders with GPS

Zakas said the idea of the law is to utilize 24-hour GPS ankle bracelets to increase oversight of “the worst of the worst” sexually violent predators who are released on lifetime parole.

Any sex offender that walks out of prison is subject to a risk assessment to figure out whether they should be placed on a GPS monitor for active parole. Doug Huyvaert, Indiana Department of Corrections director, makes the final decision on if they will come out on GPS.

This new law says that, once a sexually violent parolee finishes their initial release parole and meets their lifetime release date, Huyvaert’s department can do a second assessment to figure out who is a candidate to remain on a bracelet after they turn over to the lifetime parole stage.

For example, an 85-year-old sexual predator who is in a nursing home may not get a monitor but nearly any child molester would, Huyvaert said.

Indiana’s Department of Corrections currently monitors and supervises 350 sexually violent predators using GPS devices at an annual cost of about $3,000 per offender.

Only a slight increase in devices was ordered in the budget. The department will now oversee 380 bracelets that can be actively monitored minute by minute.

Each sexually violent offender released on lifetime parole who gets a bracelet has to follow a set of rules, including having no contact with any child under 18, having no contact with their victim or victims even if they are over 18 and adhering to the state’s sex offender registry requirements.

“This is a good community safety supplement to the registry,” Huyvaert said.

Closing a loophole in Bedford

When the bill was in the House, an amendment was slipped in to prevent one offender in Bedford from getting back into a school.

Zakas said lawmakers were inspired to take action because of a specific case of a high school teacher and coach who was convicted of child solicitation involving 16-year-old female students and players. He was charged with child solicitation rather than child molestation because students between the ages of 16 and 18, although able to consent, are protected under Indiana law from being targeted by teachers, coaches, counselors and other people in schools in a position of power and trust.

That teacher would have been eligible to have the crime erased from his record this summer because, before this law, child solicitation charges were considered a lower level felony where, if an offender served their sentence and did their probation properly, could be lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor on their record. That misdemeanor was then eligible to be erased from their record.

But now, someone convicted of child solicitation or another sexual or violent crime is no longer be eligible for expungement — including that coach.

“We changed that and made it so that someone who is a sex offender can’t use that technique to get off the registry and back into this classroom,” Zakas said.

Dave Powell, now the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director, worked on the case in Bedford when he was Greene County’s prosecutor. Powell said he thinks this part of the law does public good in protecting students.

“I know if I had a child going to a public school, or any school for that matter, that had a person who was convicted of a sex offense involving students, I’d probably want to know that,” Powell said.

This article is one in a series of stories produced by our partners at TheStatehouseFile.com – a news service powered by Franklin College – about new laws about to take effect, most of them on July 1.

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