KNAU and Arizona News
Fri December 30, 2005
Lawmaker calls for GPS tracking of convicted felons
By Howard Fischer
Phoenix – People convicted of offenses classified as dangerous crimes against children are usually sent to prison. But judges also have the option of imposing probation
following their release. The length of that probation is up to the judge. But the proposal by Rep. Laura Knaperek would spell out that if a judge does decide that probation is appropriate, it would have to be for life. But her bill goes farther. It says that one condition of that probation would be linking offenders to real-time global positioning systems -- for as long
as they live.
(These are people that are taking advantage of our young children. As far as I'm concerned, they shouldn't even be out of prison. But I didn't go that far, by the
The reason she didn't is that Knaperek would have a hard time convincing colleagues to mandate life terms for these offenses committed against children younger
than 15, as serious as some of them are. They range from rape, kidnapping, murder and sexual abuse to involving a child in a drug offense and enticing them into exposing themselves for commercial pictures and videos. The idea has some support from prosecutors. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said she likes the idea.
(I'm not convinced that you can change a pedophile. I'm not convinced that any amount of rehabilitation works. So it probably would make some sense to try the
electronic monitoring and see if that actually reduces reoffending.)
But LaWall said it may only be a partial solution. She said these people, while monitored, still are out on the streets -- and still able to commit new crimes. But
Knaperek said it would be a deterrent. First, she said real-time monitoring would show immediately if a convicted sex offender is someplace he doesn't belong,
like near a school or playground. Even if that's not the case, Knaperek said it will make offenders think twice before acting again.
(You know that somebody knows where you're at at all times. And they track you, that you were on that corner when the little girl disappeared. I think you're going to be more careful. I think it's preventative in that way, for the person, because they understand everyone's watching them.)
The idea is getting a chilly reception from defense lawyers. Tucson defense attorney Joseph St. Louis said issues of the length of probation are best left to a judge. And Mohave County Public Defender Dana Hlavac
said this mandate could prove expensive to taxpayers. But Knaperek said it could save money in the long run because it would be more efficient for probation officers to monitor their charges electronically than
having to chase them down. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.