Incorporating Location Tracking Systems Into Community Supervision

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APPA on 4/11/2019 by APPA Technology Committee

For several decades, supervision agencies have been leveraging a variety of technological innovations to better manage justice-involved individuals in the community. Perhaps no tool has captured the imagination of the criminal justice professionals and the public alike as much as location tracking system (LTS) technology, first introduced in 1996. The ability to track an individual in near-real time represented a substantial improvement over the previous technology, which was limited to monitoring an individual’s presence at a fixed location, usually the home.

Since that time, the use of location tracking has achieved acceptance within the criminal justice system. Further, use of an LTS is generally supported by the public, judges, and legislators, who believe this level of monitoring provides greater accountability and control for individuals in the community. By some measures LTS usage is growing rapidly. According to a 2015 survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 88,000 1 individuals were supervised using an LTS, a thirtyfold increase from the roughly 2,900 reported a decade earlier (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015). Despite this rapid growth, those under supervision with location tracking represent little more than 1% of the nearly seven million individuals under correctional control and under 2% of the 4.6 million on probation or parole supervision (Kaeble & Glaze, 2016).

Clearly, a case can be made that LTS technology is vastly underutilized, which seems perplexing considering the criminal justice reform movement and the ensuing initiatives instituted by several states to reduce prison and jail populations, including the number of technical violators returned to incarceration. This paper will look closely at how this technology is currently being used, will review its benefits, challenges, and agency considerations, and will present what research has found. Through this examination, perhaps it will become clear why this tool, whose introduction held out such great promise for use in the criminal justice field, has yet to reach its full potential.

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