GPS creates distrust

The success of California’s prison realignment depends on the ability of local and county authorities to guarantee public safety when convicts coming from state prisons are released. The problem is that these convicts are monitored with GPS technology, which faces serious implementation problems.

Officials originally decided to use this system in 2006 as a safe, low-cost way to monitor high-risk offenders. Years later, GPS became a key tool that would allow Governor Brown to decrease the prison population in order to obey a court order against prison overcrowding. Prisoners who were released and paroled would be monitored thanks to GPS ankle bracelets.

Everything went well, until problems started with the GPS units. First, an internal Los Angeles County audit revealed last year that one out of every four devices malfunctioned, whether because of battery issues or because they generated too many false alarms.

A recent Los Angeles Times report confirmed that the volume of false alarms that parole officers get makes it really impossible for them to properly carry out their enforcement tasks. This problem is happening all over the country.

This situation is very serious, because it endangers public safety while creating a false feeling of confidence that everyone who has a GPS is being closely watched.

Like any technology, GPS needs to be adjusted as it is used. However, it is urgent to make the needed changes. In additions to the problems mentioned, taxpayers’ money should not be wasted on devices that do not fill the need for which they are bought.

If GPS does not let the authorities monitor parolees the right way, the strategy behind the realignment which is based on this technology, in order to decrease the prison population—is in serious trouble.