|Electronic Monitoring of Dangerous Sexual Offenders|
|By John J. Vollmann, Ph.D|
Corrections.com author, John J. Vollmann, Ph.D., is with the ITT Educational Services, Inc. in Carmel, Indiana
Electronic Monitoring of Dangerous Sex Offenders has not been a new item when reviewing the various controls we have incurred on this type of offender. There are also other regulations concerning these offenders which fall into categories of distance from a playground or school. There have been designations that each offender report his or her address to the local policing agency and if they move, advise the jurisdictions involved in the change.
Violations for many of these infractions can result in incarceration and other sanctions. There were some serious problems in Miami, Florida when a group of registered sex offenders gave their address as living under a particular bridge; the idea here was it was the only place they could live without sanctions by the community. This lifestyle has been stopped by policing agencies due to health and other conditions that left too much for appropriate supervision.
In some jurisdictions, electronic monitoring has been the sanction most used and it involves an anklet with an electronic device attached which is, in most cases, operated with a band that is made up with fibre optics. Cutting this anklet automatically relays a signal indicating “unlawfully at large” and the location of where the cut off was made (if the processor has a GPS alert).
This is the crux of the issue we need to review – that when a registered sex offender, under supervisory electronic conditions, decides they no longer wish to be involved with the supervision and cuts off the anklet, totally limiting our ability to further track this offender. From the experiences of cases that have been examined where the offender takes off – we usually find a trail of crime – after we finally locate the individual. For example, we had a case outside Tampa where an offender, registered with a tracking device, raped and murdered a young girl and fled after removing the device. He was later found in Georgia. Joseph E. Duncan III, who in 2005 fled North Dakota, where he had been registered as a sex offender, committed sex crimes in three states, ending with the murder of a 9-year-old boy in Montana.
The premise we should be looking at is how can we deter or prevent this occurrence from happening and what is the least expensive solution? Currently, electronic supervisory programs cost approximately $15.00 per day per individual. The computerized receivers only report negative incidents – program violations regarding time and distance from regulated receivers – GPS violations suggesting offender is in a “red zone” where he is not permitted by law (playgrounds, schools, parks or other determined area).
In reviewing technology reports and other applications, viz: location of Alzheimer patients, there is steady improvement and excellent electronic monitoring available. However, when we look at a dangerous sexual offender, particularly a pedophile or rapist, who we are mandated to supervise in the community at large we face another challenge. Most of these offenders are under “life” supervision – meaning they will not have eventual freedom from monitoring. How do we successfully monitor this individual and how do we successfully make sure we actually know where the individual is at anytime? This is realistic supervisory methodology. It is public safety able to work at an optimum level, unless the offender decides to cut the anklet off.
There have been serious security developments in large corporations and agencies that have technology implanted in their employee’s bodies to control security levels and avoid security breaches. The programs are geographically set up and the employee has a transmission device surgically applied to their body. This aids in the control, mapping, and location of all personnel. It reduces breaches of security to the company or agency.
If we take this one step further we can certainly advance the technology, program an individual with a surgically implanted GPS transmitter, not just skin deep and be secure in knowing where this individual is at anytime. The very reason we maintain an implant not skin deep is so that it is not easily removed, skin deep is easily removed.
Currently in a number of jurisdictions efforts to track sex offenders draws resistance. “An estimated 100,000 sex offenders are not living where they are registered, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”  The federal law which came out three years ago did not come with funding. This created a problem for states to comply with regarding conflicts with their own laws that really were more stringent than the federal law. In any event, the funding has been the real issue and if the federal government mandates it then they should fund it.
Ethical questions always arise with the liberal side of the coin, in that we are violating the privacy of citizens. The issue is the criminal history is a track record, and when it involves something we need to control in order to protect citizens, then so be it. When this type program prevents another sexual homicide, rape, or pedophile event then we have to acknowledge the benefits. The electronic monitoring through the anklet is definitely an advantage for the “lightweight” sexual criminal. Our concern should be with the “heavyweight” offender who has a significant track record for sexual misconduct and more than likely should not have been on the street in any event.
National and statewide agencies and non-profit groups like “Family Watchdog LLC” from Carmel, Indiana house national identification of registered sexual offenders in their data bases and anyone can look up. Citizens can go on line and find registered individuals in a radius from their home or other location. This free service can be found on state level agencies as well. The data base is very wide; however, is somewhat inaccurate due to absconders, lack of tracking devices, and appears to have additional problems.
The separation of federal and state become interesting issues. Some states feel they are being dominated by the federal government some of the latter applications do not compare with the local standards.
The sad thing is the statistics that Family Watchdog LLC have researched and found are too important to miss:
It does not take too much to realize we are responding at a reactive level rather than a proactive. We need to become very proactive if we want to reduce the number we are currently witnessing. In a response to the writer of an article entitled Sex Offender Supervision with Satellite Tracking by Paul Brennan it was indicated he was on the correct path and just needed the implant vision to complete the idea?
We should tolerate nothing but total conformity with a group that has exceptionally high recidivism rates. It safeguards our children, our families and law-abiding citizens from becoming victims of released sexual offenders under life sanctions. In the long run it will cost less money and give us the security we need as a modern progressive society.
 “Effort to Track Sex Offenders Draws Resistance” by Abby Goodnough and Monica Davey, New York Times, February 8th, 2009
 Report: Sex offender registries often inaccurate by Michael Doyle, Idaho Statesman.com, 12/16/2008
 http://www.familywatchdog.us/facts.asp - 7/23/2008
 Sex Offender Supervision with Satellite Tracking, Paul Brennan, Sheriffs Magazine, January/February 2006
 Sheriff Magazine, Letter to the Editor, Vollmann, John J. March 1st, 2006
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