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Many Flaws in GPS Tracking of Sex Offenders - Part Three

In our last blog post, we looked at a case decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court that involved an appeal of a satellite-based monitoring program for sex offenders. A dissenting judge provided some valuable insight as to why monitoring sex offenders is counterintuitive. Today, we will discuss exactly how the monitoring is conducted and discuss why the program is inadequate to prevent sex offenses.

The sex offender is furnished with an ankle bracelet that allows him or her to be tracked at all times. The monitoring takes place on a computer in an office at the Department of Corrections' headquarters in Raleigh. However, not all offenders are watched all the time. In fact, a technician can choose the name of an offender to see that person's location and direction of movement. So, these offenders are merely checked at random.

Also, the monitoring program only provides the location, the direction the offender is moving and how fast the offender is going. No other information is provided. Therefore, just because you know where sex offenders are does not mean you know what they are doing.

Although the system will provide alerts when the offender travels to restricted areas like schools or day care centers, alerts do not always receive an immediate response. Why? The system suffers from dropped signals, similar to what happens to cell phones. Therefore, those monitoring the system do not always take immediate action if they receive an alert. Further, sometimes the GPS bracelets drop their signal if the offender wears heavy clothing over them or there is bad weather.

This information was used in Supreme Court Justice Robin E. Hudson's dissent in the sex offender monitoring case. Justice Hudson stressed the fact that this monitoring program fails to protect the public in any way.

Even the program's proponents have their doubts. State Rep. Julia Howard supports the monitoring program, but concedes that citizens should not rely on the system alone nor assume they are safe from sex offenders because the program is in place.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal "GPS tracking used for sex offenders hampered by technology, resources," Paul Garber, 21 November 2010

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