Parole Violators Removing GPS Tracking Devices Serve Shorter Sentences

In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the State of California to reduce prison population due to overcrowding, causing “the severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.”

Justice Kennedy wrote “For years the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs… other remedies have been found to be sufficient…. Overcrowding has overtaken the limited resources of prison staff; imposed demands well beyond the capacity of medical and mental health facilities; and created unsanitary and unsafe conditions that make progress in the provision of care difficult or impossible to achieve. The overcrowding is the “primary cause of the violation of a Federal right.”

Justice Kennedy continued, “the state’s prisons had operated at around 200% of design capacity for at least 11 years.”

Rather than releasing tens of thousands of prisoners back onto the streets, California implemented a prison realignment program, transferring inmates from State prisons to County jails. The State provides every county with realignment funds to help offset the additional expense of correctional programs. Every county, however, has to fund its own law-enforcement and maintains sovereignty over whether to accept or retain parole violators in county jails. 

When convicts have completed their sentences, they may be released, on parole.

In Kern County, hundreds of parolees and other offenders wear GPS tracking ankle bracelets. Prior to realignment, if a tracking device was removed, offenders received a one year sentence. Now the maximum sentence for the offense in just six months in a county jail. With the jails still overcrowded, many parolees who remove their GPS tracking device only serve a fraction of the maximum sentence. On average, in Kern County, offenders usually serve only about 25 – 30% of their sentence. 

“By the time they (a parole violator) go to their parole revocation hearing their time is up,” says Chief Deputy Francis Moore, Detentions, Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Due to continued overcrowding, about 75 inmates a day are released, many before the full sentence has been served.

Because it is common knowledge that the jail is overcrowded, some parolees feel that the risk of removing a GPS tracking device is worth doing the additional jail time.

When David Charris a parolee who removed his GPS tracking device was asked if he would remove it again, he said, “Yeah. Because I don’t want to live like that. So, I am going to cut it off, and I am going to do what I want to do.”

Jason Carter appreciates the reduced sentences, too. “I would rather spend three weeks in jail as opposed to a five-month sentence, of course.” He is a 10-time violator.

According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, nearly 20% of parole violators are repeat offenders.

As of October 2011, Kern County has 303 registered sex offenders wearing a GPS tracking device.

As of June 2012, California has 70,760 parolees. 10,295 of the total parolees are registered sex offenders, thus, required to wear a GPS tracking device.

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