A landmark court ruling has led to nearly half of Georgia’s most high-risk sex offenders being released from their ankle monitors over the past year, marking a legal quandary that state lawmakers fell short in addressing during the 2020 legislative session.
State officials tasked with recommending how to monitor sex offenders in Georgia say legislation filed in the 2020 session would address the problem going forward by handing final authority to judges, rather than a state-run review board.
But criminal defense attorneys argue the proposal does not include certain legal avenues for sex offenders who often lack the means to appeal their punishments and who would benefit from more focus on treatment than lifetime ankle monitoring.
So far, 520 of 1,108 people in Georgia classified as “sexually dangerous predators” most at risk for committing future sex crimes have been freed from GPS tracking devices, according to Tracy Alvord, executive director of the state Sexual Offender Registration Review Board.
She expects 17 more sexually dangerous predators will be off ankle monitors by the end of this year, leaving local law enforcement agencies and the state Department of Community Supervision to rely more on reports from concerned citizens to monitor sex offenders in lieu of electronic tracking.
“There’s only so much you can do unless someone commits another crime,” Alvord said. “Now, they have less idea unless there’s a report that they’re engaging in some kind of disturbing behavior.”
Legislation brought by Rep. Steven Sainz, R-Woodbine, in the General Assembly session that wrapped up last month was aimed at revising state law on sex-offender sentencing that the Georgia Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in March 2019.
The high court ruled a longstanding practice of electronically monitoring some sex offenders in Georgia after their sentences and probation have been completed should not be allowed to continue, blocking a state law that requires automatic lifetime monitoring for sexually dangerous predators.