Once a violent offender serves his time in prison, they’re done. They walk out with no supervision, no GPS and no way to have their whereabouts tracked. But that may change here in our state, thanks to a woman named Alicia Phillips.
The potential fatal flaw, as has been identified in many case studies in recent years is that as long as the people wearing these cuffs are not monitored in real time using the software provided with them, then they still have ultimate freedom.
These systems come with tools like geofencing where areas are drawn on a map and alarms go off when people wearing bracelets enter the vicinity of that geofence. These could include a radius of the offender’s approved home and place of work, or areas that the victim might frequent. It might include a radius of schools, or known gang locations.
What we read in many news stories is that the offenders go into the ‘forbidden zones’ and commit more crimes and even at times when the alarms are raised by the software, the people monitoring the software may be busy with other tasks (i.e. insufficient manpower resources are available to monitor them) the intrusions may not be noted until it is too late and more crimes have been committed.
Given that we can’t use inhumane treatments, like the electric shocks that dogs might get when they try to leave the perimeter of a farm, the only way these systems can be effective is if they are monitored effectively. This means more money, the GPS anklet is probably the cheapest part of the solution.
The other issue where there are victims at risk, such as in this story, the other necessity is that the victim is also monitored by GPS
1. So that a proximity alarm can be set off, even warning them if the offender is within a predefined radius of them; and
2. So that monitoring agencies (Police don’t tend to have resources for this) can be alerted and take appropriate action.
What else could be done? Lots. Here are a few quick ideas:
1. Have the monitoring done by an external agency with dedicated security cleared staff.
2. Come up with solutions such as GPS watches for high risk victims that include communications that allow the victim to communicate with the monitoring agency if their alarm goes off, or if they see the offender and the alarm doesn’t go off. These could include functionality like a drop sensor and a panic button.
3. Include the ability to communicate with the offender, so that if they break the geofence, or even accidentally come within proximity of the victim, they can be warned of the consequences if they continue.
4. Include software that tracks other offenders so that if there are conditions of non-association with other people being tracked, e.g. other gang members or people who have committed similar crimes, that they also are warned off.
So often the technology gets blamed for the failure of a complete system being implemented. When we have systems that are designed to reduce costs by returning people to society, for whatever reason as required by law, we don’t seem to apply adequate resources to monitoring and rehabilitation once they get out. This should in my humble opinion have just as much budget and attention, given the high risk and cost of recidivist crime.
Kudos to States that implement this technology, just make sure you understand that it is not about the GPS ankle devices. They are just one link in the chain. It’s the system that provides the outcome.