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Report on New Jersey’s GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders

December 2007 New Jersey:

New Jersey’s “Sex Offender Monitoring Pilot Project Act” became law in August 2005, authorizing the New Jersey State Parole Board to subject up to 250 of the State’s most dangerous registered sex offenders to round-the-clock Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring. The statute was retroactive in calling for GPS monitoring of all Tier III sex offenders who were not incarcerated or subject to civil commitment. The statute also allowed the State Parole Board Chairman to subject non-Tier III sex offenders to GPS monitoring, based on established statutory criteria and an assessment of their risk to the public.

The Act requires the Chairman of the State Parole Board to “submit a report evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot program to the Governor and the Legislature within 90 days upon completion of the pilot program. The report shall recommend whether the pilot program should be continued as a Statewide program.” Based on his review of the pilot program, State Parole Board Chairman Peter J. Barnes Jr. strongly supported extending GPS monitoring indefinitely, prior to the program’s expiration on August 11, 2007. GPS monitoring now continues under the “Sex Offender Monitoring Act,” which was enacted before the pilot program ended.

As explained in this report, only one of the GPS program’s total 225 sex offenders has been implicated in a new sex crime. This initial data suggests the State Parole Board’s GPS monitoring has contributed to a significantly lower recidivism rate than nationwide data indicates for high-risk sex offenders. Moreover, the GPS monitoring data was available to aid the investigation, by placing the sex offender at the time and place of the new crime.

The State Parole Board’s caseload of more than 4,300 sex offenders is one of the largest in America, mainly due to the advent of Supervision for Life sentencing guidelines for sex offenders. Under state law, the vast majority of sex crimes committed on or after October 31, 1994 will result in Supervision for Life. Prior to the introduction of this sentencing guideline, sex offenders made up less than 5 percent of the State Parole Board’s caseload. Today, they make up nearly a third of the caseload, with a net increase of about 45 new sex offenders each month. The Legislature has designated the State Parole Board as the body responsible for managing all sex offenders sentenced to lifetime supervision.

The goal of the State Parole Board’s supervision of sex offenders – independent of whether a particular sex offender is subject to GPS monitoring – is to prevent further victimization. The agency employs Evidence-Based Practices, drawn from the most effective supervision practices in New Jersey and elsewhere, for sex offenders and other offenders on the State Parole Board’s caseload.

Due to the compulsive and secretive behavior shown by sex offenders, however, these offenders require specific, intensive methods of supervision. Following guidelines recommended by the National Institute of Justice,1 the State Parole Board has adopted a “containment” approach to sex offender supervision. This approach includes intensive parole supervision and information sharing with partner law enforcement agencies; sex offender-specific treatment to help control sex offenders’ impulsivity; and will soon include polygraph examinations in certain cases, to obtain sexual history information and monitor offenders for behaviors that increase the risk of re-offense.

The GPS monitoring of New Jersey’s highest-risk sex offenders is a vital component of this model. It helps parole officers verify sex offender behavior; allows law enforcement agencies to share information and intercept new violations; encourages sex offenders to accept responsibility for their actions; and provides data that can serve as invaluable evidence for police and courts.

For the remainder of this research: by Peter J. Barnes Jr., Chairman, New Jersey State Parole Board

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