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Calif. parolees cutting off GPS ankle bands

August 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
California is having trouble keeping track of its prison parolees as dozens have been removing their GPS ankle bracelets.The California Department of Corrections' new website lists the names and faces of 45 parolees who have cut their GPS anklets off just in the two-and-a-half weeks since the listing started.

Anyone who signed up to get Facebook, Twitter and e-mail alerts was notified 45 times in that short span.

"We've never disputed the fact that they can be cut off," said Gordon Hinkle of the state Department of Corrections. "That's part of the benefits of having GPS. If somebody does cut them off, we know exactly the point and location where they're at, at that point."

But the question is: how fast can they be re-arrested? Much of the listings still say "at large."

While the 8,000 statewide ordered to wear GPS are mostly sex offenders, the state said the latest wave of parolees abandoning them are largely gang members.

The state believes they're cutting them off to avoid arrest in stings across California.

"It they do cut off their bracelet, that's a violation of their parole terms and they go back to prison," Gordon said.

Robert Coombs, chairman of the California Sex Offender Management Board, wore the GPS bracelet as an experiment.

The strap is made of rubber that household scissors can easily cut through. That's not comforting to a public that thinks tracking the most dangerous parolees will make them safer.

"Once the device is cut, there's nothing to stop the guy from just walking away, and that does pose a real problem," Coombs said. "I think the public has certain expectations of this technology that the technology itself can't bear out."

Still, tough-on-crime supporters think GPS monitoring is worth the millions of dollars California spends on the program.

State Senator George Runner (R-Lancaster) lead the fight to require GPS for sex offenders under Jessica's law.

"There's no perfect solution," Runner said. "Anything that we do is going to have some kind of challenge to it because we are dealing with, I think, evil people."

The corrections department points out that on any given month, dozens of sex offenders and gang members cut off their GPS bracelet. They did not return a request for information on how many are found.


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