Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Should Be Used as Tool, Not Control Mechanism, Researchers Find


ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2011) — The use of GPS technology to monitor sex offenders should be viewed as a tool rather than a control mechanism, a team of researchers at Sam Houston State University found in a recent study.

In "Examining GPS Monitoring Alerts Triggered by Sex Offenders: The Divergence of Legislative Goals and Practical Applications in Community Corrections," Dr. Gaylene Armstrong and Beth Freeman examined the affects of a state law in Arizona that required the lifelong GPS monitoring of adult sex offenders convicted of dangerous crimes against children and placed on community supervision. The study monitored sex offenders in Maricopa County, AZ over a two-year period.

"A divergence between legislative goals and practical application of mandated GPS monitoring programs exists," said Dr. Armstrong, Research Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at the College of Criminal Justice. "GPS technology is far more limited than anticipated and should be viewed as a tool rather than depended upon as a control mechanism."

The study found that a significant number of equipment-related alerts were triggered by a loss of a satellite signal, rather than offender violations. Those alerts resulted in a significant increase in the workload of probation officers.

"While it is expected that GPS technology provides the capability for near real-time tracking of an offender's location and movement in the community and that alerts would primarily indicate non-compliance with geographical and temporal restrictions, findings demonstrated that the responses to non-violation alerts consumed an inordinate amount of an agency's resources -- resources that could be better directed to other case management activities," the study found.

A secondary impact is the possibility of complacency by probation officers because of an overload of non-violation alerts, which may result in a failure to act and liability for offender actions, the report concluded.

The cost effectiveness of GPS monitoring should be considered when setting budget for technology and vendors, especially considering the workload required to implement and maintain the system. If lifelong monitoring is mandated, the number of cases will continue to grow, the study said.

Community corrections supervisors estimate that 70 percent of alerts are false alarms and are usually related to technology issues. Steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of unintentional alarms. Probation officers also should be trained on the use of the GPS system, and written rules and policies should be implemented, the report said.

"Results demonstrated a clear difference between legislative perceptions of the level of technological advancement of GPS equipment and its actual readiness for broad based roll out in community corrections settings at this time," said the study. "Moreover, it appears from these results that GPS technology is currently too underdeveloped to recommend continued swift enactment of legislation mandating implementation and utilization of GPS in a cost-effective manner."

The study was published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ruling could lead to change in sex offender monitoring

wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

The state Supreme Court is working on a ruling that could allow some sex offenders to avoid mandatory lifetime GPS monitoring.
State law requires people convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct or lewd act on a child to fall under lifetime monitoring if they violate parole or probation.
A Greenville County woman is challenging that law after a probation violation forced her into wearing an ankle monitor for the rest of her life.

See the rest HERE 

South Carolina Supreme Court declares lifetime sex offender GPS tracking unconstitutional on various grounds

May 9, 2012

South Carolina Supreme Court declares lifetime sex offender GPS tracking unconstitutional on various grounds

The South Carolina Supreme Court has a very interesting (and seemingly ground-breaking) constitutional ruling concerning GPS tracking of a sex offender.  The ruling in SC v. Dykes, No. 27124 (S.C. May 9, 2012) (available here), is a bit hard to figure out: the first opinion seems to announce the opinion for the court, but then a footnote at the state of Justice Hearn's opinion states that "[b]ecause a majority of the Court has joined the separate concurring opinion of Justice Kittredge, his concurrence is now the controlling opinion in this case." I will quote the first paragraph from both opinions in the case, because they both are noteworthy, starting here with the opinion of Justice Hearn:
Jennifer Rayanne Dykes appeals the circuit court's order that she be subject to satellite monitoring for the rest of her natural life pursuant to Section 23-3-540(C) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2010). She lodges five constitutional challenges to this statute: it violates her substantive due process rights, her right to procedural due process, the Ex Post Facto clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. We hold the mandatory imposition of lifetime satellite monitoring violates Dykes' substantive due process rights and reverse and remand for further proceedings.
The very lengthy opinion by Justice Hearn, which apparently garnered only two (of the five) votes on the court, is thereafter followed by a shorter opinion by Justice Kittredge which starts this way:
I concur in result. I commend my learned colleague for her scholarly research, and I agree with the majority's general proposition that persons have a fundamental right "to be let alone."  But I respectfully disagree that Appellant, as a convicted child sex offender, possesses a right that is fundamental in the constitutional sense.  I do not view Appellant's purported right as fundamental.  I would find Appellant possesses a liberty interest entitled to constitutional protection, for all persons most assuredly have a liberty interest to be free from unreasonable governmental interference.  I would find that the challenged mandatory lifetime, non-reviewable satellite monitoring provision in section 23-3-540(C) is arbitrary and fails the minimal rational relationship test.
Long story short, it appears that all members of the South Carolina Supreme Court have concluded that the mandatory lifetime satellite monitoring now required by stature in South Carolina for sex offender Jennifer Rayanne Dykes is unconstitutional.  (I mention the full name of the defendant in this case because I cannot help but wonder, yet again, if the defendant's gender may have played at least an unconscious role in this notable outcome.  I do not think it is implausible to at least suspect this case might well have come out another way if the the defendant was named Johnny Rex Dykes.)
I have not kept count of how many states are like South Carolina in requiring lifetime GPS monitoring of many sex offenders, but I am pretty sure this ruling could (and should?) have ripple effects in at least a few other jurisdictions.  I am also sure that both constitutional scholars and those interested in the intersection of modern technology and criminal justice doctrines ought to check out the Dykes opinions.
May 9, 2012 at 06:20 PM | Permalink

Friday, September 21, 2012

SC justices reconsider sex offender monitoring

Published 10:27 a.m., Tuesday, September 18, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Even after hearing the case a second time, the South Carolina Supreme Court isn't sure it is fair to make some sex offenders in the state face lifetime satellite monitoring of their every move without any chance of appeal.

The justices Tuesday reheard a case from May where they decided the monitoring may be too harsh in some cases. The Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services asked the court to reconsider its ruling, saying their decision rewrote the law.

A lawyer for Jennifer Dykes again argued her constitutional rights were violated because she had no chance to appeal or revisit the decision to put a bracelet on her ankle that reports her every move to state authorities.

Dykes, 32, was ruled to be a sex offender after being convicted of a lewd act on a child charge stemming from her relationship with a 14-year-old girl in Greenville County several years ago. She was found to be at low risk to abuse a child again.

After violating her probation by drinking alcohol, continuing a relationship with a convicted felon she met while behind bars and rescheduling too many appointments for sex offender counseling, Dykes' probation was revoked, according to court documents.

The probation violation meant under state law authorities could seek lifetime monitoring for Dykes without a chance of appeal. That kind of monitoring can be done for just two crimes — lewd act and first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Most other crimes that land someone on the sex offender registry give an offender a chance to appeal after 10 years.

Dykes' lawyer, Chris Scalzo, held up his wedding ring and said while he loves his wife and wears it nearly all the time, he can take it off.

"She's not allowed to take that thing off her body unless there is a court order," Scalzo said.
An attorney for the probation agency, John Aplin, said lawmakers passed the lifetime monitoring law to protect the public.

"The reason you are tracking that person every minute of every day for the rest of their life is to protect children from further future harm. It's also to help law enforcement solve crimes," Aplin said.

Chief Justice Jean Toal said she understands the need for public safety from the most dangerous offenders. But she said it is a fair question to ask if a one-size-fits-all law that doesn't allow a timely chance to appeal the ruling or ask a judge to revisit whether an offender is still dangerous is constitutional.

"This court has no grief for sex offenders. But there are certainly different levels," Toal said.
Associate Justice Kay Hearn, who wrote her own opinion in May suggesting that revealing every detail of Dykes' private life to state officials violates her constitutional rights, pointed out that Dykes was not considered to be a dangerous sex offender who preys on children and would likely never change her behavior.

"This was, what, an 18-month relationship she had with an underage person," Hearn said. "Clearly wrong, clearly illegal. But there was no predatory nature."