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California: Thousands of Sex Offenders Remove GPS Monitors

Taking advantage of the lack of available bed space to house parole violators in California jails following the state’s “realignment” initiative, thousands of paroled sex offenders fitted with GPS ankle bracelets have disabled or removed them – with few consequences.

Under Jessica’s Law, sex offenders in California are subject to GPS monitoring for life. The monitor reports their position continuously to parole authorities; it also sounds an alarm at the parole office if a parolee strays too close to schools, parks or other prohibited areas.

Life is miserable for parolees on GPS monitoring. The device, worn on the ankle, is plainly visible if one is not wearing long pants. Even worse, its battery life is limited and requires recharging twice per day – which takes over an hour and requires an available electrical outlet. Failure to recharge the monitor means no signal is sent to the parole office, and a warrant for a parole violation can immediately issue.

Monitoring of paroled sex offenders is popular with members of the public, who have been brainwashed to believe that such offenders are ticking sexual time bombs just waiting to pounce on another female or child victim. In fact, only a very small percentage of released sex offenders – around 5% – are arrested for committing another sex offense.

While the failure of sex offenders to maintain their GPS devices is grounds for a parole violation, spending time in a county jail due to such violations is no longer a certainty. California jails are currently packed with offenders transferred from state prisons under the realignment initiative. As a result, technical parole violators, who have not committed a new criminal offense, are often simply released. Before realignment, sex offenders who violated their parole remained behind bars awaiting hearings that could result in up to a year in prison. Now the most severe penalty is 180 days in jail.

With the common knowledge that they likely won’t serve time if they remove their GPS monitors, thousands of paroled sex offenders have done just that. More than 2,700 sex offenders have committed GPS monitoring violations since October 2011 after the state began referring parole violators to county jails instead of returning them to prison, the Associated Press reported in March 2013 – a 15% increase since the state’s realignment initiative went into effect.

The Los Angeles Times calculated the number of arrest warrants issued for parolees who committed GPS violations at more than 3,400, which included both sex offenders and gang members. Most parole violators are quickly apprehended.

In San Joaquin County, a review of jail logs indicated that nine of the 15 sex offenders arrested for violating parole between December 2012 and January 2013 were released within 24 hours; seven immediately tampered with their GPS monitoring devices and disappeared. One, a convicted rapist, was arrested two weeks later on kidnapping charges.

Another sex offender with a history of beating women was released after serving 16 of the 100 days he was ordered to spend in jail. After he fled, police found his girlfriend, severely beaten and in a coma, in her apartment where she had lain for days on the floor. She suffered severe brain damage and now has to use a wheelchair. The parolee was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter.

The problem has no easy solution. A state legislator has proposed that county parolees who tamper with their GPS devices be returned to prison for up to three years. But California state prisons are already filled to beyond the population cap mandated by the federal courts; there is no room for the thousands of sex offenders who abscond from GPS monitoring.

Parole authorities filed complaints with the California State Auditor’s office against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), accusing prison officials of failing to disclose the public safety problem of sex offenders removing their GPS monitors. The CDCR, in turn, said it had disclosed such information online, and had reached agreements with seven counties to evaluate sex offenders who commit parole violations to determine which should not be released early from jail.

According to a 2012 report by the National Institute of Justice, California sex offenders who are not subject to GPS monitoring are almost twice as likely to be re-arrested and nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to commit sex-related parole violations.

Sources: Los Angeles Times;; “Monitoring High-Risk Sex Offenders With GPS Technology: An Evaluation of the Cali-fornia Supervision Program, Final Report,” National Institute of Justice (March 31, 2012)

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