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Jail vs. GPS

July 12, 2011 - Rob Weaver
If state-changes in sentencing laws -- intended to reduce overcrowding at state prisons -- push more people convicted of nonviolent crimes and low-level felonies into community-based correction programs, Ohio counties could face more issues with overcrowding and underfunding.

If so, Big Brother may have an answer.

Monitoring systems using Global Positioning System technology could keep county correctional facilities and county budgets from being overburdened. The systems are a more sophisticated version of ankle-bracelet monitoring systems already used for house arrest.

In fact, at least one county in Ohio already uses such a system.

Putnam County Sheriff Jim Beutler reports successful use of the GPS monitoring in his county. Offenders pay a one-time fee and are charged $25 a day to be on GPS.

The arrangement spares the county the cost of incarcerating an individual, and the would-be inmate has an alternative to sitting in jail. An offender could remain at home with his or her family, for example, yet be able to go to work. All the while, the GPS system tracks the offender’s whereabouts.

Law enforcement agencies can use the system to make areas off-limits to offenders. For example, the system could alert authorities if a person convicted of a DUI enters a bar, or if a sex offender enters a school or playground.

At least one electronic tracking system can track convicted criminals and compare the information to times and locations of reported crimes. The GPS device can monitor probationers and parolees and compare their whereabouts to the location of criminal activity.

Such a system could be less expensive for taxpayers, more beneficial to nonviolent offenders and potentially reduce the likelihood an offender would commit a repeat offense.

It makes me wonder what the federal government could do cheaper and better if forced to make do with less money.


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A photo of the ankle bracelet.