June 2007 Editorial Winner
Microchips bad idea
By David Gerard, Muskogee Phoenix
If Oklahoma legislators don't want to see microchips inserted into the bodies of Oklahomans, then they certainly shouldn't start by allowing them to be inserted into people convicted of violent crimes.
The state Senate approved a bill this past session that would have authorized the implants for "persons convicted of one or more of 19 violent offenses who have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, including murder, rape and some forms of robbery and burglary."
Wary of the precedent that could set for human microchip tracking, the Senate prohibited the government from requiring implants in anyone else.
One senator, fearing what the private sector might do, also proposed a law that would prevent anyone receiving microchip implants against their will.
The Oklahoma microchip debate and legislative session ended with the state House wanting to consider the bill further.
The proposal certainly needs more thoughtful consideration.
Microchip implants are used now so that owners can track their pets and livestock, and some have proposed their use in tracking people who need close supervision.
That idea may have seemed far-fetched at one time, but not now, given the Oklahoma Senate's approval for implants in violent criminals.
Yes, that would give prisons around-the-clock supervision of an inmate's whereabouts, and after release, if the implant still is required, it would allow government to know where an ex-convict is at any moment.
Of course, some can argue that microchip implants also would be advantageous if a child was lost or an elderly resident of a nursing home wandered away.
But the potential abuse of people's civil liberties through microchip implants is too great, and as Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, said in the House discussion of the Senate bill, "We are going down that slippery slope."
Because of the threat of terrorism, citizens are now subject to searches of their person and surveillance of their Internet contacts, and possibly phone calls. If law enforcement has reason to believe someone is involved in illegal activity, it can subpoena that person's phone and credit card activity. There are plenty of ways for law enforcement to track people, if they need to track someone.
As the Oklahoma Senate proposed, we shouldn't let microchip implants become commonplace.
But unlike the Senate, we believe that means for violent offenders, too. Once they have served their prison sentences and probation, they should not be subject to high-tech tracking.
We have become cavalier about infringing on their constitutional rights, partly because our society does such a poor job of rehabilitation. If we poured more resources into helping offenders overcome their emotional and psychological problems and provide them with vocational training, we wouldn't have the high recidivism rates we have.
Posted on Fri, June 15, 2007