State Senator John J. Bonacic, District Attorney Don Williams, and Ulster County Probation Department Director Bob Sudlow today announced that $250,000 in State funding will be made available to the County Probation Department to implement a GPS tracking program for sex offenders who are sentenced to terms of jail plus probation or just straight probation.
Senator Bonacic has secured the passage of legislation (S.4656-B) in the Senate on two occasions which would mandate GPS tracking for all Level 3 sex offenders.
"My first preference would be to lock up sex offenders for life. The reality is, however, there are many criminals, that for varying reasons, may not be convicted at trial or the witness may not be willing to testify. It is for those individuals, who plead guilty to a lesser crime, or who are convicted of lesser crimes, as well as for those released from jail but still under supervision, that GPS can be used as a tool to better monitor," Bonacic said, adding "GPS is not a replacement for longer prison terms and hands on supervision. It must be treated as supplemental to, and not in lieu of, the top notch probation staff here in Ulster County," Bonacic said.
Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams said, "There is no act so vile as the assault of a child and their assailant should be punished accordingly. I share Senator Bonacic's determination to hold these offenders accountable in the most aggressive terms. However, for individuals (sex offenders) serving additional terms of probation, GPS will restrict the offender's movement, establish and monitor areas where offenders may have access to vulnerable populations and impose the realization on these predators that they are being watched 24 hours a day.
"The funding provided through the initiative of Senator Bonacic will greatly assist this office and the Department of Probation in holding these criminals accountable, empower victims, and reduce recidivism and future victimization."
Robert Sudlow, the immediate past President of the State's Association of Probation Administrators, worked closely with Bonacic last year to develop the GPS legislation. "GPS is a great tool for our officers to use. We will put this to use as soon as we can on some of the sex offenders we supervise. This is something we've wanted to do but have not have the resources."
The Ulster County Legislature has passed a resolution in support of Senator Bonacic's GPS tracking legislation, which is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman David Koon (D/I - Perinton, Monroe County).
Currently, more than twenty states use GPS monitoring, which is more advanced than traditional electronic monitoring. Under traditional electronic monitoring, an officer is only able to determine when the offender is in his or her residence, not where they actually are or where they have been.
Under GPS monitoring, probation officers can determine where the offender is at any given moment, or where the offender has been during the course of the day depending on whether or not the offender is on "active" or "passive" monitoring. The GPS unit is typically mounted in an ankle bracelet or is placed on a belt loop attachment which is electronically linked to an ankle bracelet. If the attachment goes too far from the GPS ankle bracelet, an alert is sent to probation officials.
The cost of the monitoring, an estimated $3,000 per year per offender, will be covered by the funding secured by Senator Bonacic, as will necessary administrative costs. Director Sudlow estimated that 20 - 50 offenders could be put on the monitoring over the course of the next few months.
"Our message to people is that if you offend in Ulster County, there will be extra consequences. If after you have offended you choose to live in Ulster County, there will be extra responsibilities. This is another tool - and a significant tool, our Probation Department will now have access to and County residents will be safer as a result," concluded Director Sudlow.
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