GPS tracking technology, which has been employed in law enforcement applications for years, has taken a disastrous turn in California’s paroled sex offender monitoring program. Thousands of released prisoners have resorted to removing the devices, consequence-free.
Established in 2006, the program requires convicted rapists, child molesters and other high-risk sex offenders to wear GPS ankle bracelets, which are monitored by a private contractor. The contractor is notified when the device enters a school zone or other potentially dangerous area. If a danger zone is breached, police are dispatched to intervene.
The problem with the ankle monitors is that they’re easy to remove, and it’s easy for parolees to simply let the devices run out of battery power. As a result, California law enforcement has issued more than 3,400 arrest warrants for GPS tamperers since October of 2011.
Those who tamper with the trackers have gone on to commit additional felonies, including attempted manslaughter, child stalking and sexual battery.
You may be asking why, if the program is so unreliable, are parolees allowed to participate? The answer is simple: jail overcrowding. While some counties are more equipped for higher inmate counts than others, an overall across-the-board shortage of space leads to quick inmate turnaround, putting an increased number of oftentimes violent offenders back on the streets.
While GPS tampering has led to punishment of some offenders, results vary widely by county. One California state representative has proposed to automatically sentence any parolee who disables the device to serve a mandatory three years in prison. If this measure is passed, it could potentially solve the enforcement problem. But until it does, Californians need to be aware of the truly frightening amount of violent criminals walking their streets.