Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By Andy Choi
A team of researchers at the Sam Houston State University (SHSU) has conducted a study on usage of GPS technology for the monitoring of sex offenders.
Dr. Gaylene Armstrong and Beth Freeman in the study report titled ‘Examining GPS Monitoring Alerts Triggered by Sex Offenders: The Divergence of Legislative Goals and Practical Applications in Community Corrections’ have scrutinized the effect of a state law in Arizona, wherein adult sex offenders who have been convicted of committing dangerous crimes against children and then sentenced to community supervision, have to be monitored with the help of GPS systems. Over a two year period the scientists monitored sex offenders in Maricopa County AZ and concluded that the GPS technology should be considered as a tool instead of using it as a control mechanism.
Dr. Armstrong, who is also the Research Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, has revealed that there was a discrepancy between the legislative objectives and the practical usage of the enforced GPS monitoring program and that GPS technology was very much restricted in its usage and should be envisioned as a tool. The study indicated that most of the equipment related alerts were produced due to absence of satellite signals, than due to actual violations by the offender and rather than being a help to probation officers, they proved to be a nuisance and increased their workload considerably. This might also lead to situations where the probation officers become complacent and ignore the alerts which would lead to fatal situations.
Community corrections supervisors have assessed that almost 70% of the alerts were false and are mostly technology-related. The report indicates that training should also be given to the Probation Officers on the usage of GPS technology along with framing of written policies and guidelines to facilitate its enforcement. The study also revealed that GPS technology had two major disadvantages. The GPS technology was still in its infancy stages and was underdeveloped and also that it was not cost-effective.