State Quietly Replaced Thousands of Vulnerable Parolee GPS Trackers

Wednesday, April 03, 2013
(photo: EKA Photography)

State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials stripped GPS devices from thousands of paroled gang members and sex offenders last year and replaced them after tests showed an alarming rate of failure.

The Los Angeles Times filled in the redacted gaps of a state report on the tests, conducted in 2011 on devices being used to track 7,900 high-risk parolees and felons. About 4,000 of the parolees were wearing 3M Co. equipment that officials said failed the tests miserably.

The state dropped them, wrapped them in foil, stuck them in water, ran their batteries dead and cut their straps. The failure rate was nearly 46%.   

State officials declared the ankle bracelets—being worn all over the state except for six Southern California counties, including Los Angeles—a public safety emergency. They replaced the 3M bracelets with trackers from Satellite Tracking of People (STOP), the company that was already servicing the other half of California parolees as part of dual-bid for a six-year, $51 million contract. STOP apparently did better in the testing.

3M, which claims to be the world’s largest maker of GPS tracking devices, was not happy. The company claimed the state messed up the testing. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ruled last April that the state could give 3M the boot based on the testing, but that it fell far short of being an emergency that would justify giving STOP a single-bid contract.  

Last month, a Times story indicated that parolees didn’t really care much whose device was strapped to their body—they were going to ignore it anyway. A lot of parolees were disabling the GPS trackers with little fear of retribution. They knew that a state realignment program, initiated by Governor Jerry Brown in late 2011 to shift responsibility for certain inmates from overcrowded prisons to overcrowded county jails, was making it difficult for local authorities to control parolees with GPS.

California has been tracking parolees with GPS devices since 2008.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Judge Rules State GPS Contract Expansion Violated Bidding Laws (by Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times)

Tests Found Major Flaws in Parolee GPS Monitoring Devices (by Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times)

Calif. Officials Found Flaws in Parolee Trackers (Associated Press)

Parolees, Taking Advantage of Overcrowded Jails, Are Ditching GPS Tracking (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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