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July 19, 2010

California struggling with new challenges posed by GPS technocorrections

Regular readers know that I view technocorrections like GPS tracking as a common punishment of the future, and that is one reason I find especially notable this local piece detailing California's problems with this form of technocorrections now.  The piece is headlined "Sex offenders unwatched as parole struggles with GPS system," and here are excerpts:

Two special reports by the state Office of the Inspector General found Corrections' GPS policies were confused at best and non-existent at worst.

The full technological abilities of the system aren't being used, agents and supervisors aren't properly trained and agents are so overloaded with GPS busy work they aren't able to do other vitally important checks in the field, according to the reports. Overall, the reports concluded, Corrections is not aggressively monitoring sex offenders and the public is being given a "false sense of security."...

"Parole agents are so busy tracking dots on a computer screen, they're not out making home visits, checking the guy's workplace, talking to family members," said Melinda Silva, president of the Parole Agents Association of California. "Agents are spending the bulk of their time running tracks including at home and on the weekends."

Jessica's Law, passed in 2006, started the ball rolling on lifetime GPS monitoring of sex offenders. Then the Garrido report added more responsibilities and the Gardner report still more.

California leads the nation in GPS monitored parolees -- 6,500 -- at a cost of $60 million a year. Depending on arrests, there are typically about 250 sex offender parolees on GPS in Kern County.

Silva said the state isn't taking into account how the program has increased agents' workload and whether the work is actually accomplishing what the public expects. "People believe the GPS means we know where they are 24/7 and we don't," Silva said. "We're paying millions for GPS and we're not getting much out of it because agents don't have time to do the work."

Now, she said, State Sen. George Runner, who authored Proposition 83 establishing Jessica's Law, has a bill involving Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites that she feared would add even more to agents' plates.

Not so, Runner said. His bill, SB 1204 which has passed the Senate and the Public Safety committee in the Assembly, would simply require that sex offenders register their online and e-mail addresses as well as their instant messaging user names just like they do their physical addresses.

Silva argued that if it becomes a crime for a sex offender not to register their electronic info, that makes it absolutely incumbent on the agent to check the sites. "Who enforces that if not us?" she asked. "It's ludicrous to say there's no extra work."

As for whether the GPS program has been a success, Runner said it's an evolving technology that should not be thought of as a cure-all. "It's just one tool," he said.

There have been successes and failures with GPS, he acknowledged. But he firmly believes the technology and its use will continue to improve. "That said, there have been problems with implementation." And he said he was "frustrated" with some of Corrections' responses to recommendations about how to do better.

Some related older posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

July 19, 2010 at 08:12 AM | Permalink


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GPS really is no cure all, and is often a cure-nothing. Its only function is to generate data, which takes more manpower to process than proponents usually acknowledge in addition to POs' other duties. It doesn't take the place of physical home visits and other direct supervision. So it's something that occurs in addition to all other supervision tactics, and it's FAR from clear that the marginal extra safety benefit is worth the bang for the buck.

Many people want to put sex offenders on GPS, but most sex offenders' crimes are most often committed in places they're supposed to be - with family, etc.. And if somebody does commit a crime, GPS won't prevent it. Nor is it helpful if the offender decides to cut off the anklet and abscond.

GPS is one of those "common sense" solutions that in practice doesn't fulfill the promised benefits. There needs to be a lot more research-based analysis of what exactly it is and isn't useful for, and for what types of offenders, before it's adopted wholesale for broad categories of people under supervision.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jul 19, 2010 10:43:43 AM

All great points, Grits, though could there be a specific deterrence benefit from GPS tracking? Even if many offenders know that they are just generating data that may not even be process, some may sensibly see many problems with even generating "bad data" that could be used against them at some later time. Unless/until we can really analyze similar offenders on and off GPS systems, I am tempted to give the benefit of the doubt to this "common sense" solutions, especially given that the alternative for many folks may end up being a much more costly and liberty-depriving prison cell.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jul 19, 2010 12:12:08 PM

Just another politician using fear tactics and sensationalism to get support for an unconstitutional bill that will take 3 years for the courts to 'sort out;. How many more unfunded measures will create more work and headaches for the police? Every unfunded bill will come crashing down.. they will say, like in ohio, that it was separation of powers or whatever, but really the reason the law can't stand is Money. You need money to provide extra effort in this dept. of law enforcement, and no one who drafts the bill seems to concerned on figuring out where it will come from... citizens might turn on SO legislation in general if they find out they are paying the bill in these troubled financial times.. If there was unlimited resources to keep SOs down, I bet unfunded SO laws would have better chances to stick.

Posted by: tbucket | Jul 19, 2010 1:27:19 PM

The problem is with the premises. The government seems to strive for a self-fulling prophesy that all RSOs are a John Chuey or a Garrido or Gardner when hardly any have even the slightest inclination to copy them.

"Consumed With Sex": Sex offender treatment in risk society

This ethnography of a prison treatment programme for sex offenders examines the meaning of rehabilitation in the context of the 'new penology.' As it explores how cognitive-behaviourism structures treatment, it uncovers a therapeutics grounded in risk that actively constructs the identity of the sex offender. It shows how the management of risk relies on techniques of introspection and self-discipline—a patient's internalization of his crime cycle and relapse prevention plan—that target primarily sexual fantasies. These self-policing techniques radically transform the sex offender into a species entirely consumed by sex.

"Treatment": Backwards and upside down?

Don't focus on "denial" or "lack of empathy," warn sex offender treatment experts

Social scientists have long known about the human tendency to divide into in-groups and out-groups. Current popular fascination with so-called psychopaths illustrates this us-versus-them bent. If psychopaths represent evil, that makes the rest of us good. The non-criminal breathes a sigh of relief to discover a distinct "criminal brain" (unless, as neuroscientist Jim Fallon found, we share the abnormality).

Nowhere is this infrahumanisation more extreme than in regards to sex offenders, who are seen as a species apart. Infrahumanisation prevails not just among the general public, but among treatment providers as well. Sex offenders, the popular therapeutic wisdom holds, are likely to lie, distort, and manipulate. Thus, sex offender programs target these attributes in treatment. If a sex offender accepts responsibility and learns empathy, the theory goes, he will be less likely to reoffend.

Not so fast, say three highly experienced scholars and clinicians of sex offending: "As it turns out excuse-making is healthful and results in a reduction in reoffending. It may, therefore, not only be counter to accepted principles of offender treatment to attempt to change noncriminogenic distortions, it may result in increased rates of reoffending."

Posted by: George | Jul 19, 2010 1:28:21 PM

Great post, George.

Posted by: tbucket | Jul 19, 2010 5:17:24 PM

In my county they've set up perimeters on the digital maps around schools, daycares, and parks. Thanks to residency restrictions; I live in a rural area which requires me to drive 5 miles into town. I pass 3 schools, 2 parks, and IDK how many daycares going to the market; all unavoidable. This sets off a minimum of 10 alarms on a round trip. The other day I was doing some home repair and it was back and forth to the hardware store. :)

Posted by: RSO W/braclet in Ca. | Jul 19, 2010 9:22:43 PM

I am astonished to find myself in agreement with Grits, but his analysis is solid. I don't see a word in it to dispute.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 20, 2010 9:33:19 AM

I am a now retired but I dealt with the abnormal traits of personality in my study in medical/health science many years ago CSUI.

What I am seing is our laws today are that many of our laws have come out of hast and fears of the general populations that were caused by the many myths and misconceptions that comes from the general media sensationalizing and exploiting the more severe crimes committed along with the many states attempt not to appear to be soft on crime. This in itself has caused for laws to to be made more from general armchair speculations than from true science such as the ability to predict ones actions through ones type and their traits. I myself feel that being the general populations throughout the country are not even aware of the most common myths and misconceptions if these myths and misconceptions were brought to the attention to the nations major majority of people better laws would be made in the first place. By using true science for the making of laws than tools such GPS would only be needed in the most extream cases.

Posted by: Neil B Fisher | Jul 21, 2010 7:32:30 PM

Did you know that treatment for former offenders has been proven effective and that most sex offenders never commit another crime? Did you also know that making it more difficult for former offender to reintegrate into society increases recidivism?

Would you like more *FACTS* ? If so, look at this website and please sign our petition:

CanadiansForAJustSociety [dot] webs [dot] com

Posted by: Steven Yoon | Aug 17, 2010 12:44:01 PM

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