In 2006, North Carolina's legislature approved satellite-based monitoring of sex offenders. The monitoring was touted as a means of protecting the public after convicted sex offenders were released from prison. The law was called "An Act to Protect North Carolina's Children/Sex Offender Law Changes." At the time, many states were enacting similar sex offender legislation after receiving funds for pilot programs from the federal Adam Walsh Act.
North Carolina's program is aimed at the most dangerous sex offenders. There were 492 sex offenders enrolled in the program as of last July, although many of them were not fitted with ankle bracelets yet because they were still in prison. By the middle of 2011, there will be an estimated 699 sex offenders enrolled in the program.
However, the Winston-Salem Journal performed a review of the monitoring program and found many glaring flaws. Although the state of North Carolina is spending almost $500,000 annually on the monitoring program, the individuals wearing the ankle bracelets are not being watched closely and can easily commit new crimes.
Hannah Rowland, the director of the satellite-based program, admits the monitoring does not prevent crime. Rowland says the technology was not meant to work in that capacity, and that the state does not have the resources to use the technology in that way. Instead, the current system consists of random, occasional checks on sex offenders.
According to Jill Levenson, an expert on sex offender monitoring programs and an associate professor at Lynn University, most GPS monitoring programs around the country are similar. While citizens may assume that GPS tracking occurs in real time, she says the process is much more passive.
In our next blog post, we will discuss other flaws with the GPS monitoring system and look at a recent sex offender monitoring case decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal "GPS tracking used for sex offenders hampered by technology, resources," Paul Garber, 21 November 2010