South Carolina Uses GPS Monitoring for Offenders

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The state of South Carolina is using electronic tracking devices to keep track of inmates upon their release from prison. The state signed contracts with Omnilink, based in Alpharetta, Ga., and Satellite Tracking of People, based in Houston, to provide the necessary equipment.

While all criminal offenders in South Carolina are eligible to wear electronic tracking bracelets, the majority of those who do are sex offenders. Daniel Engert, administrative captain at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the practice in relation to the Sex Offender Accountability and Protection of Minors Act. Engert explained that South Carolina passed Jessica’s Law in 2006, named for Jessica Lundsford of Florida who was sexually battered and murdered by a former sex offender. Engert explained in a statement that the law “mandated that convicted sex offenders with certain offenses against minors would be monitored under GPS by the Department of Probation.”

These GPS tracking bracelets monitor wearers’ movements, which help officials ensure that the offenders are following the terms of their release from prison. Each offender pays $40 per week to be monitored, according to Engert.

South Carolina is currently monitoring about 600 offenders, an increase from the 400 being monitored in January 2011, according to the Associated Press. The state employs about 160 agents to provide constant surveillance of the tracking devices. They are available 24 hours a day to provide immediate response to any issues that may arise. Up to 30 agents can be on-call on any given day, and field agents are available to make home visits if a violation is detected.

Although the terms of Jessie’s Law states that sex offenders must wear the tracking bracelets for life, South Carolina is making moves to add some flexibility to that mandate. “The way the law is written right now…[offenders are] actually required to be monitored for as long as they’re required to register as a sex offender, which…is lifetime. But it’s being challenged that they can appeal after 10 years to be removed,” Engert said.