Magazine article Corrections Forum

New Jersey GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders: Implementation and Assessment

Magazine article Corrections Forum

New Jersey GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders: Implementation and Assessment

Article excerpt

Electronic monitoring of sex offenders provides an important supervision tool. However overconfidence in. over-reliance on and underfunding for such systems can place the method in jeopardy, states a National Institute of Corrections Report. While use of electronic supervision must be carefully analyzed, statutes for authorization of its use, as of late 2006, are on the books in at least 40 states (see Electronic Monitoring of Sex Offenders: 2006 Report to the Legislature at

This report tracks the initial implementation of NJ's GPS sex monitoring program, including the agency's improved recidivism rate, as well as failures.

New Jersey's "Sex Offender Monitoring Pilot Project Act" became law in August 2005, authorizing the New Jersey State Parole Board to subject up to 250 of the state's most dangerous registered sex offenders to round-the-clock Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring. The statute was retroactive in calling for GPS monitoring of all Tier III sex offenders who were not incarcerated or subject to civil commitment.

It is interesting to note that the N.J. State Parole Board's caseload of more than 4,300 sex offenders is one of the largest in America, mainly due to the advent of supervision for life sentencing guidelines for sex offenders. Under the state law, the vast majority of sex crimes committed on or after October 31, 1994, will result in supervision for life. Prior to this sentencing guideline, sex offenders made up less than 5 percent of the parole board's caseload. Today they make up nearly a third of the caseload, with a net increase of about 45 new sex offenders each month.

After the expiration of the pilot program in August 2007, the program continued under the "Sex Offender Monitoring Act."

The goal of the Parole Board is to prevent further victimization, so multiple tools are used. In addition to GPS monitoring, which is a vital component of monitoring the state's highest risk sex offenders, other specific intensive tools are used. These include sharing information with other agencies, sex offender-specific treatment, and polygraph examinations.

The Results

A total of 225 sex offenders have been subject to GPS monitoring in the state since the program began. Significantly, only one of these high-risk sex offenders has been charged with a new sex crime while under GPS supervision. The offender was arrested at the crime scene, a rape that occurred in April 2006.

In contrast, a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics found the 5.3% of sex offenders were arrested for a new sex crime within three years of their release from prison, with 40% of new sex crimes occurring within the first 12 months of their release. The figure is likely higher as sex crimes are underreported. A separate analysis indicated sex crime recidivism levels two to three times higher than the rearrest rates in the BJS study.

In New Jersey the rate of reoffense appears to be lower. The State Parole Board's initial data suggest GPS monitoring has contributed to a lower recidivism rate than nationwide data indicates for high-risk sex offenders. GPS monitoring seems to encourage these high-risk sex offenders to control their behavior, and avoid situations that would inspire new crimes. These sex offenders know their movements are recorded, time-stamped and stored, and will be used as evidence in the investigation of any new sex crimes.

The State Parole Board regularly provides this data to other law enforcement agencies, to assist in their investigations of new sex crimes. On more than a dozen occasions, GPS data was able to eliminate the entire GPS caseload as suspects in new sex crimes, by showing that all of these individuals were elsewhere when the crime took place.


During the first 15 months after the Sex Offender Monitoring Pilot Project became law in August 2005, The State Parole Board worked closely with the Attorney General's Office, New Jersey State Police and all 20-plus county prosecutors to assure that each Tier III sex offender in New Jersey was identified, located and notified of their obligations under the statute. …

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