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October 15, 2012

With Texas schools now RFID tracking, is broad criminal justice use of this technology on the horizon?

Long-time readers may recall that more than half a decade ago I was asking in this post whether microchip inplants to track offenders might be an unavoidable inevitability.  To some extent, broad GPS tracking of sex offenders in many states has begun a move in this direction. 

I have long thought the increased use of this technology for non-criminals would be a key social development that could make more people more inclined to be more comfortable with this kind of Big Brother approach to criminal justice.  Consequently, this recent media story coming from Texas about a new use of RFID tracking caught my attention.  The story is headlined "RFID chips let schools track students -- and retain funding -- but some parents object," and here are excerpts:

Two San Antonio schools have turned to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to help administrators count and track the whereabouts of students on campus.

Students at Anson Jones Middle School and John Jay High School are required to wear ID cards imbedded with electronic chips, similar to highway toll tags, which allow schools to more accurately record daily attendance.  Public school funding is often tied to the number of students attending class each day....

Pascual Gonzalez, Northside’s communications director, estimates the entire district has been losing about $1.7 million a year because of underreported attendance. He says the RFID system, which costs $261,000, should pay for itself in the first year....  Principal Wendy Reyes says the system has the added benefit of allowing her to find a particular student instantly. “Sometimes it’s difficult to locate a student in a sea of 1,200 others, so this helps locate them in an emergency,” she said. The ID tags can only be read on campus, so students cannot be tracked outside the building.

Some parents and students fear the radio ID tags are just too much Big Brother.  Steve Hernandez, whose daughter is a sophomore, objects to the tags on Biblical grounds. He compared the badges to the “mark of the beast” as described in the Book of Revelations.... The American Civil Liberties Union calls the RFID tags “dehumanizing.”

“What kind of lesson does it teach our children if they’re chipped like cattle and their every movement tracked?” asks Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office. “It doesn’t create the kind of independent, autonomous people that we want in our democratic society.”

Gonzalez, Northside’s spokesman, says school administrators have no intention of spying on students.  “There’s a misconception that somebody’s sitting in a room with a bank full of monitors looking at where 1,200 kids are here at Anson Middle School. That’s not true,” he said.  “It’s not even feasible.  We’re not staffed nor are we interested in knowing where all the kids are at a particular moment.”

What the RFID system does do, according to Gonzales, is provide an accurate, daily census of students, which helps the district make money.  Based on early results, the district may consider expanding the RFID system to its other 109 schools, encompassing nearly 100,000 students.

I find the quotes from various folks in this story especially notable given the potential application of this technology in criminal justice setting: I suspect many policy-makers would be glad, not troubled, to adopt a technology which might be viewed as "dehumanizing" for certain types of offenders, and I am certain there is some policy interest (and some public benefits) from having the every movement of high-risk offenders tracked.  And though some are quick to object to any further monitoring of sex offenders, I wonder if there would be the same concerns about using RFID to track potentially violent men who are subject to a restraining order due to a history of domestic violence.

Some older related posts on tracking technologies:

October 15, 2012 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

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Comments

hmm

"Pascual Gonzalez, Northside’s communications director, estimates the entire district has been losing about $1.7 million a year because of underreported attendance."

Here's a thought. Fire the retarded teachers who can't seem to count the heads in thier class at first period!

also

Pascual Gonzalez get's the award for the stupidest comment of the week!

"The ID tags can only be read on campus, so students cannot be tracked outside the building."

Last time i looked RIF chips do not come with an off switch.

Which means that any pervert who has seen anything about this article Can now purchase a RIF reader and see everything about each child in that district. Since to ID each student said chip would almost have to include thier personal info.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 15, 2012 1:21:17 PM

We've been doing that with cattle for years, it was only a matter of time before Texas kids got RFID ear tags, too.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Oct 16, 2012 8:07:00 AM

RFID can be useful if one is accused of a crime and can document absence from the crime scene.

Witness from Bank
DIRECT Q. What did you see at the at the Cincinnati National Bank at HH:MM on MM/DD/YYYY ?
DIRECT A. I saw both defendants „ Rod Smith and Anon. #3.14159 „ at the bank .  Mr. Smith shot the guard with a Glock and Mr. #3.14159 shot the teller with what appeared to be a construction orange Nerf .44 S&W revolver .  He said, “I just made your day ‼ ”

CROSS Q. Did you see an RFID on either of the defendants ?
CROSS A. No .

Defendant Smith
DIRECT Q.  Describe your whereabouts at HH:MM on MM/DD/YYYY .
DIRECT A.  I was attending a joint lecture by Mark Godsey, Esq. and Jim Petro, Esq. at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center on South Front Street in Columbus , Ohio .  Justice Paul Pfeifer was the moderator .  Court security required us to wear a court generated RFID badge with our photo.

Defendant #3.14159
DIRECT Q.  Describe your whereabouts at HH:MM on MM/DD/YYYY .
DIRECT A.  I was attending a joint lecture on mistaken eye witness testimony by Mark Godsey, Esq. and Jim Petro, Esq. at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center on South Front Street in Columbus , Ohio . Justice Paul Pfeifer was the moderator . Court security required us to wear a court generated RFID badge with our photo.

Witness Justice Paul Pfeifer
DIRECT Q. Describe what you saw at HH:MM on MM/DD/YYYY .
DIRECT A. You betcha ! I saw both defendants at our Judicial Center in the southeast conference room on the first floor . Defendant Smith was wearing a blue power suit with a red power tie and taking lecture notes on his out of the box new „ turbo-charged water cooled Apple Tablet 2.71828 . Defendant 3.14159265 was wearing a pair of Elwood P. Suggins denims and a bright orange-yellow Gadsden shirt . The “Don’t” command was missing an apostrophe.  Mr. 3.14159265 was taking lecture notes with a red crayon on a brown Trader Joe’s shopping bag .  Court security forbids Mr. 3.14159265 from having any sharp objects .  He also managed to spill some of his Glaceau Smart Water® into Mr. Smith’s tablet „ causing a pastry fight and thumb wrestling match between the two . And don’t dance with me on that ‼

Posted by: Anon. #3.14159 | Oct 16, 2012 9:45:23 AM

LOL never catch me with an apple device.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Oct 16, 2012 3:55:47 PM

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