GPS Fact Guide And Sample Letter
Derek "The Fallen One" Logue
August 1, 2008, amended August 18, 2009

Note: Below is a letter I wrote for someone in New York State. The yearly cost per offender at a rate of $10 per day is
$3650. Multiply that number by the number of applicable offenders, and always make sure the state understands most
former offenders CANNOT AFFORD to pay.
______________________________

May 14, 2008

Dear _____________,

I am writing to you this evening to voice my concerns over S. 479, the lifetime GPS requirement for Tier III former sex
offenders. I am concerned the GPS devices are costly and ineffective in reducing sex crimes, but constitutes such a
great burden to both law enforcement and to the former offenders who have served their time and are struggling to
successfully reintegrate into society.
According to the New York State Registry website, New York has just over 26,773 registered sex offenders, 6,660 of
which are currently listed as a Level 3 offender [1]. It has been estimated that the cost of GPS is around $10 per day per
device[2]. If the law was applied to all 6,660 offenders currently on the list, the state will have to shell out $24.3 Millions
dollars per year just to maintain the devices. The chances of passing the expenses onto former offenders is unlikely, as
most former offenders struggle to find steady employment in a slumping economy and employers hostile to people with
criminal records. If New York later adopts the Adam Walsh Act, as Oklahoma did, expect the number of Level 3
offenders to rise to as much as 78% of the total sex offender population [3]. Using the AWA formula as provided by
Oklahoma, the number of Level 3 offenders would equal 20,883 at a total cost of $76.2 million per year!
The use of GPS devices should be reconsidered, as the technology suffers from numerous limitations. Among the
common technological problems: “Geometric Dilution Of Precision” (GDOP), meaning if the angle of the receiver to the
satellite is too small, the satellite may give a false reading; satellite visibility- buildings, metal, and other terrain obscures
the signal; speed limits- if it is going above a certain speed, it will not work; and temperature limits- will not work in
extremes of temperature [4]. Washington state did a test run with “passive” devices (passive devices merely record
where the person has been and must be uploaded to read, whereas active devices send out constant signals), and
found 4000 “notices of violation,” the vast majority of which were false alarms due to technical difficulties [5]. The
batteries could fail to charge, be defective, or possibly leak or explode.
GPS use also raises a number of ethical and constitutional issues. One senator who voted against the Wisconsin bill
stated it would create a “big brother bureaucracy” and was unnecessary [6]. Most states are imposing the devices on all
offenders, even low-risk offenders. It raises questions on the limits states can invade in the private lives of freed citizens.
There is also a question of whether the devices violate the fourth amendment ban on unreasonable searches and
seizures [7].
With all the concerns and limitations regarding GPS, it makes little sense to pass such sweeping legislation. Both the
state and the offender will be burdened with the number of false alarms, as noted in the Washington study.
Furthermore, GPS does not monitor the offender’s actions, just location, and can easily be removed by an offender who
is determined to re-offend [8]. In other words, GPS will not prevent crimes, but places an undue burden on the state and
the offender both. Former offenders are concerned of being “branded for life,” a mark of infamy which lowers his
chances at successful rehabilitation and reintegration. Such expenses would be better spent on prevention, treatment,
and reintegration programs that are proven effective in reducing sex crimes in general and reducing recidivism rates for
convicted offenders.
Therefore, I encourage you to withdraw support of NY S. 479 in favor of more effective and less burdensome laws.
Thank you for your time.

Sources:

  1. http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/stats_by_county.htm
  2. Elise Castelli, “Global positioning to track sex offenders.” Boston Globe, Sept. 21, 2004
  3. Nicole Marshall, “Sex offender law faces opposition," Tulsa World, Oct. 28, 2007
  4. www.unc.edu/~cahoon/problems.html
  5. Jonathan Martin, “GPS tracking beset by problems of terrain, technology, and time.” Seattle Times, Sept. 28, 2005
  6. Steven Waleters et al. “GPS tracking for sex offenders OK’d.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 25, 2006
  7. Katherine Mieszkowski, “Tracking sex offenders with GPS.” Salon Media Group, Dec. 19, 2006
  8. Associated Press, “States Track Sex Offenders by GPS.” July 30, 2005

____________________________________________________

From my "SO Fact Guide" page:

GPS Tracking
  • iSECUREtrac (www.isecuretrac.com/sa_so.asp). The company website boasts GPS devices accurate to within 15
    feet, customizable zoning and scheduling to ensure offenders are where they are supposed to be, and claim to
    having “the greatest impact on reducing re-offense.”
  • By June 2006, Twenty states had proposed or passed GPS tracking bills-- California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois,
    Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio,
    Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin (National Conference of State Legislatures, June
    2006). Many of the proposals require monitoring for life.
  • Of course, GPS is not without its limitations and critics. Many of the problems arise from the technology itself.
    Among the common technological problems:
  • “Geometric Dilution Of Precision (GDOP), meaning if the angle of the receiver to the satellite is too small,
    the satellite may give a false reading;
  • satellite visibility- buildings, metal, and other terrain obscures the signal;
  • speed limits- if it is going above a certain speed, it will not work;
  • and temperature limits- will not work in extremes of temperature (www.unc.edu/~cahoon/problems.html).
  • Washington state did a test run with “passive” devices (passive devices merely record where the person has been
    and must be uploaded to read, whereas active devices send out constant signals), and found 4000 “notices of
    violation,” the vast majority of which were false alarms due to technical difficulties (Jonathan Martin, GPS tracking
    beset by problems of terrain, technology, and time.” Seattle Times, Sept. 28th, 2005).
  • One senator who voted against the Wisconsin bill stated it would create a “big brother bureaucracy” and
    unnecessary (Steven Waleters et al. “GPS tracking for sex offenders OK’d.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April
    25th, 2006).
  • GPS doesn’t monitor the offender’s actions, just location, and can easily be removed (Associated Press, States
    Track Sex Offenders by GPS.” July 30th, 2005).
  • Most importantly, most states are imposing the devices on all offenders, even low-risk offenders. It raises
    questions on the limits states can invade in the private lives of freed citizens. The batteries could fail to be
    recharged or defective. There is also a question of whether the devices violate the fourth amendment ban on
    unreasonable searches and seizures (Katherine Mieszkowski, “Tracking sex offenders with GPS.” Salon Media
    Group, Dec. 19th, 2006).

Other Articles of Interest:


ADDENDUM May 21, 2009

Fox News: GPS System Could Fail Nex Year, Report Warns
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,520636,00.html?test=latestnews

Mismanagement and underinvestment by the U.S. Air Force could possibly lead to the failure and blackout of the Global
Positioning System (GPS), a federal watchdog agency says.  The risk of failure starts in 2010, according to the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) report quoted by PC World.  The failure would impact not only military
operations, but also the millions of people and businesses who rely on the satellite-based navigation systems built into
cars, boats and cell phones.

ADDENDUM 8/18/09

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules retroactive application of GPS to paroled registrants unconstitutional!
http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/08/divided_sjc_ban_1.html

“The GPS device burdens liberty in two ways: by its permanent, physical attachment to the offender, and by its
continuous surveillance of the offender's activities,’’ Justice Margot Botsford wrote for the majority.

“We conclude that, as a result of the substantial burden on liberty [the 2006 law] imposes as part of the sentence for
certain crimes, the statute is punitive in effect,’’ Botsford wrote. “And because [the 2006 law] operates retroactively with
respect to the defendant, its application to him is impermissible under the ex post facto provisions of the United States
and Massachusetts Constitutions.’’

Joining Botsford in discarding the law were Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall and Justices Robert J. Cordy and Ralph
D. Gants.
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