GPS Monitoring Technologies and Domestic Violence: An Evaluation Study

By September 15, 2014News

Edna Erez, LL.B., Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago
Peter R. Ibarra, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago
William D. Bales, Ph.D., Florida State University
Oren M. Gur, M.S., University of Illinois at Chicago

June 2012

This project was supported by Grant No. 2007-IJ-CX-0016 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and U.S. Department of Justice.

This study examines the implementation of Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring technology in enforcing court mandated “no contact” orders in domestic violence (DV) cases, particularly those involving intimate partner violence (IPV).

The research also addresses the effectiveness of GPS as a form of pretrial supervision, as compared to other conditions in which defendants are placed.

The results indicate an increase in agencies’ use of GPS technology for DV cases since 1996, primarily to enhance victim safety and defendant supervision.

The study also examined the impact of GPS technology on DV defendants’ program violations and re-arrests during the pretrial period and on re-arrests during a one-year follow-up period after case disposition.

  • The results indicate that GPS has an impact on the behavior of program enrollees over both short and long terms.
  • Examination of the short-term impact of GPS enrollment shows it is associated with practically no contact attempts.
  • Furthermore, defendants enrolled in GPS monitoring have fewer program violations compared to those placed in traditional electronic monitoring (EM) that utilizes radio frequency (RF) technology (i.e. remotely monitored and under house arrest, but without tracking).
  • GPS tracking increases defendants’ compliance with program rules compared to those who are monitored but not tracked.
  • Defendants enrolled in the program had a lower probability of being rearrested for a DV offense during the one-year follow-up period, as compared to defendants who had been in a non-GPS condition (e.g., in jail, in an RF program, or released on bond without supervision).
  • Those placed on GPS had a lower likelihood of arrest for any criminal violation within the one-year follow-up period.
  • An examination of the relationship between GPS and legal outcomes revealed similar conviction rates for defendants on GPS and those who remained in jail during the pretrial period.
  • Further, a comparison of conviction rates for GPS and RF defendants found a significant difference – with GPS defendants being likelier to be convicted as compared to RF defendants; also higher for GPS defendants compared to defendants released on bond without supervision, suggesting that defendants’ participation in GPS increases the likelihood of conviction.

The final component of the study is a qualitative investigation with stakeholders in domestic violence cases – victims, defendants and criminal justice personnel.

  • Victims largely felt that having defendants on GPS during the pretrial period provided relief from the kind of abuse suffered prior to GPS, although they noted problems and concerns with how agencies and courts apply GPS technology.
  • Benefits of GPS enrollment for defendants included protecting them from false accusations, providing added structure to their lives, and enabling them to envision futures for themselves without the victim.

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