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May 9, 2009

A closer look at the pros and cons of GPS tracking for abusers

As regular readers know, I believe GPS tracking and other forms of technocorrections are certain to be a larger and larger component of the criminal justice future.  I was thus pleased and intrigued to see this new piece in the New York Times, headlined "More States Using GPS to Track Abusers and Stalkers."  Here are a few excerpts: 

In Massachusetts, where about one-quarter of restraining orders are violated each year, according to the state’s probation office, a recent law has expanded the use of global positioning devices to include domestic abusers and stalkers who have violated orders of protection....

Twelve other states have passed similar legislation — most recently, Indiana this week — and about 5,000 domestic abusers are being tracked nationwide, said George Drake, who oversees Colorado’s Electronic Monitoring Resource Center, which gathers data from equipment vendors.

But the path to the system’s widespread use has been bumpy.  It is still hard to protect families who live in rural areas or where there are not enough police officers to respond quickly.  With the economic downturn, states have cut money for training the police and judges in GPS use, and some places with legislation in place say they cannot afford it.

It is up to a judge, in cases of extreme violence, to decide whether to order its use before trial, as a condition of bail or as a sentence. That has led to complaints by the American Civil Liberties Union and others of too much leeway for judges. “Until they know how GPS can be used and how successful it can be, judges are reluctant to order it because it’s unfamiliar,” said Judge Peter Doyle of Newburyport District Court. “Without seminars and convincing presentations, I wouldn’t have been comfortable ordering it.”...

Often the only way victims can prove that they are being stalked, experts say, is through new technologies like GPS....  Experts say the program can help save lives.  Domestic-violence-related homicides increased 300 percent in Massachusetts from 2005 to 2007, according to Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, while in Newburyport, where a High Risk Team was in place, there were no such homicides in that period.

“Using GPS monitoring to enforce an order of protection makes the order more than just a piece of paper,” said Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and a longtime advocate of using GPS in domestic abuse cases. “It’s a way of making the criminal justice system treat domestic violence as potentially serious. By detecting any escalation in the behavior of a batterer, GPS can prevent these unnecessary tragedies.” Ms. Rosenfeld’s research found that about one quarter of women who were killed by their domestic abusers already had restraining orders.

Some older posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

May 9, 2009 at 07:41 AM | Permalink


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GPS is much more labor intensive for the authorities than is commonly portrayed by its proponents. In that sense it's like CCTV cameras - sounds good in theory but in practice it generates mountains of data that for the most part nobody has time to track or parse.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | May 10, 2009 12:35:25 PM

While I personally believe that GPS technology is virtually fool-proof, it's still a little disconcerning to suggest that it would be used as a replacement for prison terms/parole. Technology is the wave of the future; however, so it wouldn't surprise me to see the use of GPS equipped devices on the rise in the prison systems across the country.

Posted by: GuideDog | Jul 6, 2010 2:23:31 PM

GPS tracking is the precursor to world wide tracking and complete invasion of all people's privacy as we know today. Rather you believe in religious views as the mark of the beast or just plain new world order where all people will be tracked even in your bed room. The facts are upon us and in our face but many people pretend or just plain refuse to accept that the governments are really one entity with pilot programs in Europe than other countries.

Posted by: Clarence Rudy Brown | Sep 3, 2010 8:32:05 PM

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