NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 24, 2004

Global Positioning System-based wireless tracking systems are being increasingly used to monitor persons awaiting trial and nonviolent offenders on parole or probation. Their popularity stems in large part to their cost-effectiveness: taxpayers save money when such defendants or offenders can avoid being detained in state penal systems, say observers.

GPS electronic monitoring systems:

  • Increase security and enhance rehabilitation efforts for about $8 a day versus $60 to $100 per day for incarceration.
  • Are cheaper than building prisons; the cost of U.S. prisons has increased tenfold over the last two decades, reaching $57 billion in 2001.
  • Legislation mandating GPS tracking of sex offenders is in place, pending or in development in 14 states.

Officers using the devices can set up exclusion zones, which will notify them whenever they are entered by an offender. Additionally, the units can provide detailed online mapping of an offender's travels, even down to street-level maps with precise addresses for homes and businesses visited or nearby.

Unlike earlier radio-frequency devices, GPS units are more portable and reliable, providing near real-time notification and detailed proof of violations to victims, courts, law enforcement and bondsmen, say observers.

Source: Marty Whitford, "Long Arm of the Law," GPS World, August 2004.


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