Where on earth are sex offenders? States are using satellites to track dangerous sex offenders, many of whom become lost to registration systems.

Author:Lyons, Donna

Global Positioning Satellite technology, developed by the military in the 1960s, is now finding its way into everyday life, for convenience and safety. The U.S. Department of Defense calls the orbiting, solar powered satellites NAVSTAR. States are calling them the latest tool for tracking sex offenders who often disappear from the registration rolls after their release.

In at least a dozen states, policies are pairing intense supervision of sex offenders with constant GPS monitoring of their whereabouts.

JESSICA LUNSFORD ACT

A 2005 law in Florida spurred by the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Citrus County, requires lifetime GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders. It contains other provisions to toughen sentencing, enforce the registration requirement, and penalize those who harbor a sex offender in violation of the duty to register, a factor in the Lunsford case.

The transient sex offender who confessed to Jessica's murder had a history of crimes against children. He was required to register under Florida law, but like many others he had failed to keep his address up-to-date for the registry. John Evander Couey held the missing child just yards from her home and the police command center set up to help find her.

"The Jessica Lunsford Act expands on dozens of laws as part of a campaign in Florida to remove these offenders from society," says Representative Dick Kravitz, a sponsor of the act. The law imposes a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life for many offenders who commit crimes against children. Released sexual predators and others who have committed specific sex crimes, particularly those against children, must for the rest of their lives be subject to "active electronic monitoring."

THE COSTS

GPS monitoring costs about $9 a day per offender, according to a fiscal estimate of the act. Staff say costs already are dropping due to the technology becoming more common, as well as economy of scale as the numbers of offenders under surveillance grow.

Conventional house-arrest electronic monitoring, still considerably cheaper, can report if an offender leaves his base location, but cannot identify where he is.

"With active GPS, we'll know more about the movement of sex offenders who need to be watched," Representative Kravitz says. "Are they staying out of excluded areas? Do their movements show unnecessary patterns or deviations? We can know and act on that."

Hoyt Layson Jr., a Florida inventor who adapted GPS for...

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