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Vermont turns to GPS

from By Dennis Bartlett

A couple of weeks ago, Vermont Public Radio broadcast that a southern Vermont county was instituting a pilot program funded by the state legislature ($300,000) to release defendants pending trial unsecured except for GPS monitoring. We all use GPS, for driving directions, locating destinations, finding cell phones and so forth. A couple of months ago, during a trip to Sweden, I used it to find my grandmother’s childhood home located in a remote forested region accessible only by logging roads. No reasonable person can reject off-hand the many advantages of this technological wonder tool. But, that’s just what it is. A tool.

Two years ago, due to the press of pretrial defendants on the Vermont jail system, a state senator and a Supreme Court judge were pushing for the use of GPS to release defendants while keeping track of them to insure their appearance and to discourage their committing crimes while awaiting the court date. At the time officials in Orange County abruptly shut down their GPS program and fired the pretrial officials involved. Why? Crimes, including murder, committed by defendants. The same thing happened in Seattle. Criminals simply committed crimes sporting their GPS devices; others took the slightly more creative route of cutting the units off. 2012 was a bad summer for GPS. Perhaps the collapse of the GPS system in these cases, both involving horrendous murders, gave Vermont officials serious pause. Regardless, the game is back on, (perhaps amped up with the astute salesmanship of GPS providers). more

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