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June 18, 2015

In aftermath of prison escape, NY legislator suggests microchip tracking implants for violent offenders

As reported in this local piece, headlined "N.Y. State Senator Proposes Using GPS Implants To Track Violent Convicts," a high-profile prison escape has now prompted a high-tech proposed solution to prison escapes. Here are the details:

Bloodhounds and expensive manhunts are so yesterday when it comes to hunting escaped prisoners. That’s the opinion of one lawmaker, who says the state should explore implanting tiny GPS devices under convicts’ skin. Others say microchipping criminals could have multiple uses, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

“If you’ve got convicted murderers, the type of people these two men are, that it would make some good sense at that level that we should have something that we could track them,” said State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Saratoga.  With 800 law enforcement officials still unable to pick up the trail of escaped murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, the suggestion from Marchione to implant microchips in people convicted of serious crimes is picking up steam.

“I’m in favor of it, but I do think there have to parameters with respect to the crime itself.  I wouldn’t do it for arson, which falls under the violent, but I would do it for aggravated rape and murder,” said Paul Viollis, a security expert and former investigator in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  “I see the public safety value in it, not just from an escape standpoint but also from an inmate-control perspective within the institution,” said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said microchipping inmates is unconstitutional. “It sounds like a knee-jerk reaction.  They should plug the security inside prisons,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.  “As a constitutional matter, it won’t survive a challenge because it’s an invasion of body autonomy.”

Shane, a former cop, said it might pass constitutional muster if the chip was removed if and when a prisoner is released.  “Removing it when they are paroled, those sorts of things, transitioning from a microchip to an ankle monitor, are all going to have to be explored,” Shane said.

There’s also the question of whether the microchip could be cut out the minute the inmate escaped.  Experts say the chips would be embedded in the neck, underneath six or seven layers of skin.  So simply cutting it out without medical assistance would pose a significant health risk, Kramer reported.

I tend to favor at least the considerationof new technologies and technocorrections, so I personally would endorse this kind of innovation. I would especially endorse this kind of technocorrections if it might provide a ready means to give better-behaving prisoners more freedom and liberty while they are imprisoned without crating any risks to general public safety.

June 18, 2015 at 07:01 PM | Permalink


I have gone to a lot of trouble to escape. Why would I not take a sharp piece of broken plastic, and remove the chip from under my skin? Maybe put a smiley face on it before dropping it to the ground.

We have apps to find our car, to find our phone. Why wouldn't there be an app to find our drug gang rival for a drive by, no rush, we know where he is at all times?

Move on from this idea.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 18, 2015 10:35:34 PM

The sole safe remedy is the death penalty. This manhunt has cost $millions a value far exceeding the negative value of the lives of the escapees. The ablitionist must take full responsibility for this fiasco. Prisoner advocates should be sued by any victims of these escaped murderers. That includes New York State with its horrifying coddling of criminals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 18, 2015 10:38:08 PM

Brilliant idea! No wait, I have an even better one. Why don't we just sever the Achilles tendons of every potentially violent convict? Two inmates have escaped and remain at large. We must do everything -- sensible and otherwise -- to prevent it from happening again. Yet another absurd self-parody by yet another mouth-breathing legislator.

Posted by: John K | Jun 19, 2015 8:52:04 AM

John K., the severing of the Achilles tendon is a physical mutilation that is permanent and is not the same as a temporary placement of a tracking chip in a violent prisoner while they are in confinement. At some point, there is a reasonable argument of compelling need here. If anything, it might allow somewhat freer movement inside prison.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 19, 2015 11:41:16 AM

Also, yes, the chip -- with some danger -- can be removed, but until that occurs, the government will know where the person is. The removal will not be easy and once it occurs, the government has a better means to pinpoint where they last was standing.

As to the death penalty alternative, the people at large (even if this was warranted constitutionally and available on the books as an option, which it isn't much of the time) doesn't want to execute the tens of thousands potentially violent felons that will potentially escape.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 19, 2015 11:45:11 AM

Half of violent criminals are murdered. I am proposing killing the other half. BE rid of them and all crime. Spend the money on something else. We will be judged as stupid in this era, thanks to criminal lovers like you.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 19, 2015 7:41:51 PM

Joe, in the end I suspect this will be a story about the multitude of extraordinary enabling factors that made this exceedingly rare and even hopelessly improbable episode possible...as opposed to a trove of evidence making clear the need to perform invasive surgical procedures on every inmate who might conceivably pose a credible risk of beating such breathtakingly long odds again.

Posted by: John K | Jun 20, 2015 7:34:44 AM

John K. your "Achilles Heel" comparison is still exaggerated. And, it is not "every inmate." It can be used for a select group, including murderers or some subset of them.

Those who oppose the death penalty and/or some oppressive type of solitary lock-down might accept that "invasive surgical procedures" that are still minor surgery is better when society (like it or not) don't want to risk the chance a few (as they will) will find a way to escape. This is not something that never happens. There were various escapes by dangerous felons in prisoner for very serious crimes.

And, unlike permanent physical harm to tendons, those who murder, e.g., lose some freedom. A microchip, which in time will only be easier (and less invasive) is something to think about w/o comparing it to disabling surgery.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 20, 2015 10:57:21 PM

Of course the Achilles heel reference is exaggerated, Joe. That's how hyperbole works.

The way cost-benefit analysis works is that we generally try to avoid spending a lot of money (and testing the bounds of what's OK to do to inmates) in order to prevent things that rarely happen.

Posted by: John K | Jun 21, 2015 8:57:38 AM

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