How Reliable Is GPS Ankle Monitoring as an Incarceration Alternative?

Ankle Bracelets
GPS Ankle Monitoring

GPS technology has come a long way since its glitchy days of finding and printing the quickest route on MapQuest in the 90s. Since its inception, GPS has gone beyond restricted military use. 

In fact, it’s become an everyday tool that people rely on. If you ask any person walking down the road for directions, they’d most likely turn to their smartphone rather than pull out a paper map and compass.

As GPS guidance systems become increasingly more accurate and prisons become more crowded, GPS ankle monitoring has become a viable alternative to incarceration. 

But how reliable can it be? Keep reading to learn more about what a GPS ankle monitor is, how they work, and its pros and cons. 

What Is a GPS Ankle Monitor?

By definition, a GPS ankle monitor is a device designed to be worn around your ankle that transmits information about your whereabouts to a monitoring center. 

In this case, the information is relayed using a global positioning system (GPS), but other types also use radio transmission. In most cases, ankle monitors are used for tracking a wearer’s location as a condition of house arrest or parole. They are also generally given to people as a punishment for an alcohol-related violation to track their alcohol usage. 

Most GPS ankle monitor companies have products comprised of the following three major components:

  • The ankle bracelet
  • Remote receiver
  • On-site receiver

When the ankle bracelet is worn, it constantly takes readings of information such as alcohol usage and location. The information is then sent vis GPS to an on-site transmitter, which is placed somewhere in a wearer’s home. 

Once the on-site transmitter receives the information, it relays it to the remote receiver. The remote receiver is typically at a police station or a remote monitoring service center. 

Most ankle monitors will also have sensors built. These sensors work to notify the proper authorities if the wearer attempts to remove the bracelet or interfere with the signal. 

For cases where offenders are safe to monitor outside of prison, ankle bracelets serve as a good alternative to incarceration. It helps with prison overpopulation and removes the cost of having an officer keep an eye on them 24/7 while keeping an eye on their location 24/7. 

What Are GPS Ankle Bracelet Restrictions?

Do GPS ankle monitors detect alcohol? How strict is my journey from work to home?

As briefly mentioned earlier, some ankle bracelets have sensors that can detect a wearer’s alcohol consumption. Although rare, if the wearer has a bracelet for an alcohol-related violation, it will not restrict their movement. For example, the wearer has freedom of movement as long as they abstain from alcohol. 

However, most ankle bracelets used to control alcohol consumption will still monitor and report a wearer’s movements regardless. 

The actual distance a wearer can travel will depend on several factors. These include the judge’s determination and the monitoring system. 

Ultimately, it’s up to the judge to decide how far a wearer is allowed to go from the on-site receiver. The allowable distance is typically permitted based on the wearer’s needs, like their job and the reason they require a monitor in the first place. 

For example, if a person has an ankle bracelet due to house arrest, they’re generally not permitted past an invisible line on their property. 

Some places that a person may be allowed to travel to, depending on the case, include:

  • Church
  • Parole meetings
  • Court hearings
  • Work
  • Medical services
  • Rehabilitation services

Generally, any travel outside of the designated home address will be restricted to specific time frames and will require pre-scheduling. 

How Does a GPS Monitoring Ankle Bracelet Work?

The truth is, prisons in the US are constantly overpopulated and make taking in new offenders an issue. Depending on the offender, ankle monitors work as an excellent alternative to incarceration. 

Typically, wearers are those that qualify for house arrest because they commit a lower non-violent offense. Some wearers might even qualify for getting out of their bracelets for good behavior before their designated sentence is up. 

As mentioned earlier, GPS ankle monitors operate by notifying the proper authorities about a wearer’s location or alcohol consumption. Typically, a judge will restrict an ankle monitor to keep an individual at a specific location. The system will alert the authorities in any of the following circumstances:

  • System malfunctions
  • The wearer is not at a specific location
  • The wearer is off a designated route
  • Attempted removal, tampering or shielding
  • Low battery

Depending on the model, some may offer a more precise location than others, and some may transmit constant signals while others record location data at specific intervals. 

Types of Ankle Bracelets

The first type of ankle bracelet is a radio frequency monitor. These don’t give the wearer’s exact location but rather notify the authorities when the wearer comes into range or deviates from their designated location. 

Radio frequency monitors are most commonly used for curfew and house arrest cases where wearers must be at their designated location by a specific time. 

The second type is a global position system or GPS monitor. These are much more precise and can relay the location data at specified intervals or continuously. These are generally reserved for offenders that are allowed travel and have a prearranged schedule cleared. These are also used to restrict certain offenders from going near specific people or locations. 

The last type is a secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring system or SCRAM. Although these can relay location data as well, their primary purpose is to detect alcohol consumption levels. 

SCRAM monitors test sweat at regular intervals for alcohol and relays the collected data to the monitoring agency. 

Advantages of GPS Ankle Monitoring

There are many advantages of GPS monitor ankle bracelet. They not only put the cost on the offender instead of the general taxpayer but also help free up overpopulated prisons and require offenders to follow a specific set of rules as they would in prison. 

These can include drug tests, random visits and in-person meetings. Failure to meet the requirements can lead an offender to serve the rest of their sentence in prison.

Disadvantages of GPS Ankle Monitoring

However great GPS ankle monitoring may be, it does come with a few disadvantages. These include the potential for tampering, not logging the offender’s activities, and potential signal interference. 

While GPS ankle bracelets have greatly advanced in recent years, there are certain unavoidable factors such as terrain and weather which may create unreliable signals. 

GPS Ankle Monitoring: An Incarceration Alternative?

For the vast majority of cases, GPS ankle monitoring serves as a viable and reliable alternative to incarceration. For qualifying offenders, it serves as a way to help them rebuild their lives and turn away from a life of crime. 

Get in contact today at for the most reliable GPS ankle monitoring solutions. 

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