Diane Rosenfeld is currently working with states to utilize GPS monitoring of batterers by offering assistance to state legislators on developing and implementing legislation. The legislation that she proposes requires offenders to wear an electronic bracelet equipped with GPS, which enables law enforcement to monitor the movements of an offender. Rosenfeld notes that this early warning system can be the difference between life and death for endangered women. Protective orders, which commonly establish exclusionary zones from which the offender is prohibited, offer no protection unless enforced by police – Rosenfeld claims that about a quarter of protective orders are violated. GPS monitoring would likely have several beneficial effects for protecting women:
- Ensures more effective police enforcement of protective orders by alerting police when a batterer is in the exclusionary zone.
- Encourages women to seek protective orders, as they can be more confident that they will be effective tools.
- Dissuades batterers who may otherwise feel that they can violate the protective order without consequence.
- Provides courts with proof of a violation of a protective order.
Police in 15 states are beginning to use GPS technology for those who violate restraining orders against them. Each state’s program differs, but in general, offenders wear an ankle bracelet that is tracked by GPS and monitored 24 hours a day. They are barred from certain “restriction zones,” such as such as the victim’s home, workplace, a child’s school, or anywhere their victims are known to be, and if they violate those zones, authorities know instantly. Rosenfeld highlights the success of the pilot program she helped create here in Massachusetts. The Greater Newburyport High-Risk Case Management Team reports no domestic homicides, 100 percent success using GPS monitoring (meaning neither re-assaults nor violations of protection orders) and a conviction rate of offenders of more than 90 percent.
There are some potential drawbacks of the GPS monitoring systems, though. The devices and tracking systems can be expensive, and while some jurisdictions require the batterer to cover the cost, other states have declined to participate in the program altogther. Additionally, detractors note that the devices could lull victims into a false sense of security when they should instead remain alert and away from potentially dangerous situations. Finally, tracking of batterers raises First Amendment privacy concerns–although tracking bracelets have been allowed in other contexts, such as house arrest.
Rosenfeld notes that 3-4 women are killed every day by someone close to them, and that GPS monitoring can play a vastly important role in reducing that number by providing women with an extra layer of protection and law enforcement with a head start on stopping a batterer who violates a protective order.