Although Wisconsin has been electronically monitoring the worst sex offenders after their release from prison since January 2008, a proposal by Gov. Jim Doyle could change the current system.

Presently, there are two ways to monitor sex offenders.

Under “active” monitoring, sex offenders carry a portable tracking device that allows law enforcement to watch them 24 hours a day. Those under “passive” monitoring are watched more loosely, with their movements reported only when offenders recharge their tracking device.

Current law does not allow offenders being tracked actively to switch to passive tracking. Under Doyle’s proposal, however, the Department of Corrections would be given the option to switch an offender once they are on active tracking for at least 12 months. The switch would also depend on level of risk the offender poses to his community, according to Rachel Krueger, spokesperson for the DOC.

Krueger added that although the proposal will likely save the state money, since the switch from active to passive tracking would be made on a case by case basis, there is no way to determine exactly how much the DOC would save.

The proposal has sparked outrage among Republican lawmakers.

“The proposal is completely gutting the tracking program,” Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said. “[The] governor promoted the toughest position on sex offenders in the last campaign, but [he has done] now a complete 180.”

Although Suder acknowledged the move might save the state money, it will hurt victims in the long run.

To help inform Wisconsin citizens of the new proposal, Suder plans to take an active stand on the proposal, working with non-partisan groups such as Citizens for Safe Wisconsin as well as other national advocacy groups.

He added he believes once citizens find out about the ramifications of passive tracking, there will be enough public support to change the governor’s proposal.

Rich Raemisch, secretary of the DOC, however, dismissed Suder’s claims, explaining that the proposal would more efficiently help run the tracking program.

“It depends on circumstances, but putting [those sex offenders] who are medically ill, or no longer capable of committing the crime for 18 years on active GPS — it makes sense to stop,” Raemisch said.

Raemisch added that the system would benefit Wisconsin citizens by saving the state money while maintaining public safety.

Krueger further clarified Doyle’s proposal in response to some Republicans’ criticisms that the governor changed his position on sex offenders after he promised harsh punishments for offenders during his 2006 reelection bid.

“He has always been a proponent of public safety, holding sex offenders accountable and supervising them in a manner that will maintain that public safety,” Krueger said in e-mail.

Rebekah Sweeney, spokesperson for Assembly Majority Speaker, Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, said Nelson is looking closely at what Doyle is going to propose next for the budget, but has yet to make a final decision on the plan.

Correction: Krueger and Raemisch’s names were misspelled in the original copy. Sweeney was also originally reported to be the spokesperson for Rep. Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna. We regret the errors.