Electronic monitoring has long been a desirable form of tracking offenders post-release. Monitors can come in a variety of forms, such as check-in stations that notify probation officers when an offender has checked in. GPS monitoring is a type of electronic monitoring that permits the tracking of a person during all times of day from one point to another. These monitors typically come in the form of an ankle bracelet, the flexible design of which allows for the collection of data that tracks an offender’s movement.
GPS monitoring has been the focus of several legal cases within the past ten years, including US v. Lambus (2017) and US v. Jones (2012). US v. Lambus found that wearing an ankle bracelet requires a warrant, while US v. Jones held that installing a GPS device on a vehicle to track it constitutes as a search under the Fourth Amendment. Because of the complicated legal history of GPS monitoring, agencies should have clear policies and procedures in place that dictate how and when a GPS monitor will be used.
Additionally, probation agencies should consider multiple factors when deciding whether or not to implement GPS monitoring. Bishop (2010) points out that officers must think about which offenders should receive supervision, who will monitor offenders, and how to pay for the monitoring. The cost can be substantial, so monitoring might not be feasible for all probation offices. Regardless, while GPS monitoring can be a highly effective tool, there is much to be considered when deciding whether to implement its use in a probation office.
If an agency decides to move forward and implement a GPS monitoring system, they should keep multiple factors in mind. For example, some of these factors include examining how many officers are available to monitor notifications and if they feel comfortable using the technological equipment, how many notifications the system would send, and if the vendor allows the agency access to both new and archived data. The Center for Criminal Justice Technology outlines these considerations in this report, while also recommending that a good GPS system be accurate, reliable, tamper-resistant, affordable, and “user-friendly.” The University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute further outlines the advantages, limitations, and legal and ethical issues of GPS monitoring here.
Kelsay, James D. and et al. Final Report, The Feasibility of Implementing Global Position System Monitoring with Crime Scene Correlation in the State of Ohio. December 11, 2019. https://www.columbusmonthly.com/assets/pdf/OH3274717.pdf
As part of Senate Bill 201, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) was required to study the feasibility of contracting with a third-party contract administrator for global position system (GPS) monitoring that would include a crime scene correlation program that could interface by link with a statewide database for GPS-monitored offenders. The system under consideration would allow law enforcement agents to remotely search a statewide database that includes all offenders placed on GPS monitoring, to access information regarding the offenders’ current and prior locations without a subpoena or warrant, and to access information pertaining to the offenders’ proximity to locations where a crime has been reported. ODRC contracted with the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute (UCCI) and the University of Cincinnati Institute for Crime Science (ICS) to conduct this study. Read the Executive Summary.