Penalties sought for parolees cutting GPS monitors

January 10, 2013 12:33:41 AM PST
Those GPS ankle bracelets that monitor some California parolees are not as effective as they could be. And that's because some convicted sex offenders and gang members are cutting off the devices and getting away with it.

Authorities say 48-year-old repeat sex offender Fidel Tafoya cut off his GPS ankle bracelet in November and days later he was charged with the sexual battery of a Fresno State student at the campus library.

"What I care about is that we get these criminals back behind bars," Assm. Jim Patterson, R-Fresno said. "Because I don't want someone else's daughter to be molested in a library at a university."

GPS ankle bracelets are required on paroled sex offenders and hardcore gang members in California. In fact, Corrections has a high tech system in place that automatically alerts parole agents when those monitors are cut off.

But due to overcrowding and a court mandate to reduce the inmate population, disabling the tracking device no longer sends offenders back to prison. The crime lands them in county jail. They too are jam-packed and inmates typically spend only a few days or weeks there, if they can be found at all.

"They're exactly the people we need monitored," State Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance said. "When they cut off their GPS ankle bracelets, they're violating the law and preventing the state from monitoring them. They have high recidivism rates, so we don't want them going after children."

Word has obviously gotten around the street.

The year before the policy change, October 2010 to September 2011, 173 parolees cut their straps. The year after, nearly 300 did, a 60 percent jump.

Both Senator Lieu and Assemblyman Patterson introduced bills to make cutting off a GPS device a felony again with more time in state prison.

But Governor Jerry Brown made it clear this week, California needs to reign in prison costs, "Everybody wants to send people to prison, but nobody wants to pay for it," Brown said. "There's only so much money."

Patterson disagrees, "I don't accept the premise that we don't have the money. We don't have the will. We don't have the political leadership."

The Corrections Department points out when you look at the entire parolee population of roughly 7,500, the jump in the number of people who cut off their GPS tracker is only 1.5 percent. Some would argue that's not enough to justify more prison spending.


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