Pros & Cons of Offenders Wearing a GPS Device

Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices is now commonplace for monitoring convicted child molesters.
••• handheld GPS image by Christopher Dodge from

Discussion and analysis of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to electronically monitor offenders appeared in a 1966 Harvard Law Review article. Although electronic monitoring is not fool-proof, court-ordered use of GPS devices to monitor offenders has become routine.

History of Electronic Monitoring

Widespread use of GPS technology was encouraged in a study conducted by Ralph Schwitzgebel and others. The first patent for electronic monitoring of offenders was issued in 1969.


The major disadvantage to the use of GPS systems in sentencing is that courts may place over-reliance on the effectiveness of GPS use by being lenient in other sentencing options. Further, electronic monitoring can be labor-intensive in order to be effective.


According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, GPS systems can substantially reduce the costs usually associated with offender incarceration and post-prison monitoring. Additionally, courts are free to order that offenders must pay the costs of electronic monitoring as a condition of sentencing, probation, or parole. Use of GPS devices can provide real-time monitoring of offenders, ease prison overcrowding, and increase public safety. Another advantage is that problems associated with community transition through residence in a half-way house are mitigated.

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