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Evaluating the Use of GPS Technology in the Community

Date Published
March 16, 2014

In an effort to more effectively manage persons convicted of a crime who are released to the community, many community corrections agencies use technology, such as GPS-based equipment, to monitor and supervise individuals and maintain public safety.

Three NIJ-funded studies examined the effectiveness of GPS monitoring of persons who are under supervision in the community:

Individuals at High-Risk of Committing Gang-Related Offenses

A study of GPS monitoring of individuals at high-risk of committing gang offenses by the Development Services Group integrated outcome, cost and process evaluation components.

Research Methods

The outcome component examined the impact of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Adult Parole Operations GPS supervision program. The study population was drawn from all individuals at high-risk of committing gang offenses released from prison between March 2006 and October 2009. The individuals on parole were released into the supervision of six specialized gang parole units in California. The sample included 784 subjects equally divided between the treatment and control groups. The treatment group consisted of individuals at high-risk of committing gang offenses who were placed on GPS monitoring, and the control group consisted of matched individuals committing gang offenses with a similar background. The study lasted two years.

Findings

The two main outcomes of interest were compliance (measured through parole violations) and recidivism (measured using rearrests and rearrests for violent offenses).

The researchers found that subjects in the GPS group were less likely than their control counterparts to be arrested in general or for a violent offense, but they were much more likely to commit technical and nontechnical violations of their parole.

The cost analysis indicated that the GPS program costs approximately $21.20 per day per individual on parole; the cost of traditional supervision is $7.20 per day per individual on parole — a difference of $14.00. However, although the results show less recidivism in the GPS group, that group also had significantly more parole violations. In other words, the GPS monitoring program is more expensive, but it may be more effective in detecting parole violations.

Finally, the process evaluation revealed that the GPS program was implemented with a high degree of fidelity across the four dimensions examined: adherence, exposure, quality of program delivery and program differentiation.

Results from the study provide promising evidence that GPS technology offers increased public safety by potentially removing dangerous criminals from the streets before they commit more violent crimes.

Individuals at High-Risk of Committing Sex Offenses

Researchers from the Development Services Group assessed the impact of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s GPS supervision program. As in the study of those at high-risk of committing gang offenses study, this study included outcome, cost and process evaluation components.

Research Methods

The study population was drawn from all those at high-risk of committing sex offenses released from California prisons between January 2006 and March 2009 and residing in the state of California. The sample of 516 subjects was divided equally into a treatment group, whose members were monitored by GPS, and a control group, whose members received traditional parole supervision. The study went on for one year.

Findings

The researchers were particularly interested in two outcomes: compliance (measured in parole violations) and recidivism (measured in rearrests, convictions and returns to prison custody).

The subjects in the GPS group demonstrated significantly better outcomes for both compliance and recidivism. With regard to compliance, persons convicted of a crime who were monitored using GPS complied with the terms of their parole at higher rates than those on traditional parole.

In terms of recidivism, those placed on GPS monitoring had significantly lower recidivism rates than those who received traditional supervision. Similarly, rates of both parole revocations and any return-to-custody events were higher among the subjects who received traditional parole supervision.

The cost analysis indicated that the GPS program costs roughly $35.96 per day per individual on parole, while the cost of traditional supervision is $27.45 per day per individual on parole — a difference of $8.51. However, study results show that the GPS group had better outcomes in terms of both improved compliance and reduced recidivism. In other words, the GPS monitoring program was more expensive but more effective.

Results from the process evaluation revealed that the GPS program was implemented with a high degree of fidelity across the four dimensions examined: adherence, exposure, quality of program delivery and program differentiation.

Individuals Committing Intimate Partner Violence

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, in collaboration with researchers from Florida State University, examined the implementation and effectiveness of GPS monitoring technology to enforce court-mandated “no contact” orders in intimate partner violence cases, particularly those involving intimate partner violence.

Research Methods

The project had three components: first, a national Web-based survey of agencies providing pretrial supervision documented patterns of GPS usage among electronic monitoring programs for intimate partner violence cases; second, a quasi-experimental design study of three sites across the U.S. that examined the impact of GPS technology on intimate partner violence defendants’ program violations and rearrests during the pretrial period (“short term”) and during a one-year follow-up period after case disposition (“long-term”); and third, a qualitative study at six sites, which included in-depth individual and group interviews with stakeholders in intimate partner violence cases (victims, defendants and criminal justice personnel).

Findings

Results from the Web-based survey demonstrate a gradual increase in agencies’ use of GPS technology for intimate partner violence cases since 1996, primarily to enhance victim safety.

Results from the second component indicated that GPS affected the behavior of program enrollees over both the short and long term. GPS tracking seemed to increase defendants’ compliance with program rules relative to that of defendants who were monitored but not tracked.

Policy implications from the qualitative study include the importance of avoiding enrollment in cases where GPS monitoring has minimal or no value and is imposed for reasons other than protecting victims or enforcing restraining orders; the need for justice professionals to cultivate relationships with victims; and the importance of maintaining an appropriate balance between victim safety and due process.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ awards 2009-SQ-B9-K018 and 2007-IJ-CX-0016, awarded to Development Services Group, Inc, and the University of Chicago at Illinois respectively. This article is based on the grantee reports "Monitoring High-Risk Gang Offenders with GPS Technology: An Evaluation of the California Supervision Program" and

Date Created: March 16, 2014