With the advent of the GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, many people believe that they can use it to help keep track of criminals who are released before trial instead of keeping them locked up in jail. They think this is a solution to the overcrowding the jails. Many officials are on a constant search for alternatives to house pre-trial inmates. Instead of locking them up in jails, GPS tracking devices are used to monitor the location of defendants who are released prior to their court appearances and ordered by a Judge not to leave a prescribed geographic area.
The initial promise of “big brother” tracking citizens by using GPS seemed like a good plan, in the hope that it would reduce the cost that counties have to incur to house criminals and at the same time reducing over-crowding in jails. The problem is: they just don’t work! There are myriad shortcomings in the system that prevents it from being a good solution for pre-trial release programs.
GPS devices have become so advanced that they can be used to track someone almost to their exact position. But all this means little when you don’t have enough people to monitor inmates that are wearing the GPS device. There have been numerous reports that show that inmates wearing GPS devices left their designated location or entered an area where they are not permitted to go. It is vital for the monitoring of inmates to be consistent in order to overcome such violations.
And tracking devices do not prevent crimes! Even though, if you track an inmate with GPS, it still doesn’t tell the monitoring person about what the inmate is doing. If they enter a store, you still cannot say with certainty whether the inmate is shopping or committing a robbery. Thus, crime cannot be prevented using GPS technology.
One of the main reasons why GPS has failed to be used as an effective means for releasing inmates before trial is that a determined person can easily remove a GPS device, giving the monitoring company absolutely no information except that where the inmate was before he took the device off. In Southern California, alone, there are many airports, bus terminals and train stations within minutes from anywhere. Once the device has been removed, these felons could be miles from where they removed the device long before the authorities have any idea that they have left the jurisdiction. These inmates can be on a run for months before they are caught again, usually much later after they have committed one or more new crimes.
Thus, there are too many things that can go wrong with GPS tracking to rely on it as an effective pre-release solution. Many changes would have to be made to the system so that it can be used more efficiently. Commercial Bail Bonds are still the best and most successful means of pre-trial release.