Policy Analysis | February 2011

GPS Monitoring for Domestic Violence Offenders

Jeremy Williams

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every year approximately 3.4 million people in the United States become victims of stalking.1 Oftentimes, these instances result in physical harm or even death of the victim. In fact, in approximately 43 percent of all cases, stalkers made one or more threats against the victim, and 21 percent of all stalking cases resulted in physical attacks against the victim.2 According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, health related costs of domestic violence victims exceed $5.8 billion every year in the United States.3 In addition, other reports indicate that domestic violence has been dramatically increasing in many states in recent years. As a result, 20 states throughout the U.S. have turned to the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a condition of probation for convicted domestic violence offenders. In the Southern Legislative Conference, both Kentucky (2010) and Texas (2009) have passed legislation to establish such programs, and many other states, such as Florida and Tennessee, have counties and municipalities that employ these practices. In addition, states like Mississippi have bills in the current legislative session to require GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases. Opponents of such measures cite cost as an obstacle to implementation, but states like Massachusetts require offenders to pay the approximate $8 per day for monitoring, offsetting the additional costs to the department of corrections. In addition to saving lives, proponents of GPS monitoring for domestic violence offenders argue that it assists in establishing boundaries for offenders; allows for immediate notification to victims and law enforcement personnel when violations occur; and can serve as evidence in criminal investigations. Additionally, since victims are often attacked in their own homes, homes of family, job sites, or other places that would normally be deemed safe, GPS monitoring provides an additional measure of safety for victims that would otherwise not exist.

1 Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice, "Associate Attorney General Perrelli Hosts Town Hall Commemorating National Stalking Awareness Month," January 2010.

2 Katrina Baum, et al., Stalking Victimization in the United States, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report (January 2009), 2.

3 The American Institute on Domestic Violence, "Myth Management."