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California to change sex-offender tracking

May 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There has been a major change to the way sex offenders are tracked in California.

Agents previously had to check every time a parolee's monitoring device went off. But in thousands of cases the alarms would go off because of something mundane, such as a low battery.

An internal corrections department report found that a typical parole agent spent 44 percent of the workweek reviewing the computer-tracked movements of parolees, and just 12 percent in the field.

Beginning next month, the company that makes the devices will now monitor every alarm and forward just the important ones to law enforcement.

Corrections officials fear parole agents' lack of personal contact can embolden released sex offenders to harass their previous victims or commit new crimes. They are seeking to minimize the sort of information fatigue that inadvertently helped paroled rapist Phillip Garrido keep a kidnapped woman captive for 18 years.

"The whole purpose of trying this out is to enable the parole agents to focus more on direct supervision," Corrections Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.

California tracks more paroled sex offenders with GPS than any other state, at a cost of $60 million a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story