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Oct 18, 2005

GPS Tracking Brings Civil Rights Concerns

A new law has given California probation officials broad authority to use global positioning system (GPS) devices on probationers. Under the system, officials can attach a GPS device to either the ankle or wrist of a probationer. The unit allows probation officials to view offenders' locations on a map, 24 hours a day, in real time, from their desktop computer screen.

Not suprisingly, the system disturbs civil libertarians, who cite privacy concerns. Newsday quotes Ignacio Hernandez, with the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, as saying, "There are no checks or balances for this, and no way to know what it is going to be used for." He also told Newsday that the law is too broad and gives probation officials powers well beyond what they need to do their jobs.

On the other hand, law enforcement and other government officials are encouraged by the new GPS tracking system. "In an ideal world, we would have one on every offender," Jeff Fagot, regional parole administrator for the California Department of Corrections, told Newsday. Other supporters envision even broader uses of the GPS devices. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed that registered felony sex offenders be forced to wear the bracelets for the rest of their lives.