A legislative committee Monday killed a bill that would have expanded a successful pretrial monitoring program for defendants in domestic violence cases. We hope that’s not the end of it.

L.D. 1183, which was given the thumbs-down during a work session of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, was a victim of its price tag – $1.87 million a year, a lot during a special session that features many worthy initiatives seeking a small pool of money. But that judgment is no reflection of the proposal’s considerable merits.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ken Fredette, would have funded electronic monitoring programs in each of the state’s eight prosecutorial districts, allowing some defendants to be monitored by GPS bracelets while they wait for trial in domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking cases.

Fredette also sponsored the bill that in 2014 established pilot programs in Kennebec, Sagadahoc and Somerset counties, where they met with great success. (Cumberland County offers its own robust electronic monitoring program.)

Prosecutors, police and victims found during the test period what has been evidenced elsewhere – pretrial monitoring of carefully chosen defendants provides victims with peace of mind, and gives alleged offenders an extra incentive to follow their bail conditions. Studies have shown that this leads to less recidivism and more convictions because victims, after a period of safety, feel more emboldened to testify.

But doing it right takes a commitment of money and personnel.

First, the defendant needs to be assessed. Monitoring is not appropriate for the highest-risk defendants, who should be held in jail for reasons of public safety. It is best designed for medium-risk defendants who won’t be denied bail, and who may reach out to victims following an arrest to influence their statements to police, or to threaten them or otherwise work their way back into their victim’s life; the GPS device gives the offender just enough reason not to.

Then, someone needs to discuss the program with victims, describing how it works and figuring out the “exclusion zones,” where the defendant is not allowed to go. The defendant needs to be informed of his rights, and fit for a device. There is a device, too, for victims, so that they can move around in public and still be assured some distance from the defendant.

Police officers, too, have to be trained on the program – how it works, even across jurisdictions, and how to respond. Someone needs to monitor the bracelet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Funds have to be set aside for indigent defendants who cannot afford to pay for monitoring.

The counties take somewhat different approaches to setting up and conducting the program. Some programs have dedicated staffers, while others use existing personnel. The Somerset County program was established using funds from family and friends of Amy Bagley, who was killed in Dexter along with her children by her estranged husband, as well as a donation from the governor’s office. Grant funds have been used across the board, and the fees paid by defendants cover some of the total.

That the programs are being held together so creatively speaks to the commitment of the people involved. But it’s not sustainable – Maine, where domestic violence presents one of the greatest public safety threats, should fund these programs uniformly, with an adherence to best practices and ongoing assessment of results.

The state needs these programs to be built for the long haul, and to be available throughout the state, not just where the sheriff, the district attorney and others make a special effort. Every victim deserves peace of mind, wherever they live.

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