Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Since 1983, the cost of corrections has jumped sixfold, from $10.4 billion to $68.7 billion. With incarceration taking up the lion's share of that amount, GPS devices are increasingly looking like smart, cost-effective alternatives. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is about to test just such a tracking system on state inmates on house arrest. During a six-month pilot program, the state will use multiple cell towers to track an offender's movement at home and throughout the community. Their position will be recorded every minute, and transmitted at least every 30 minutes. The new device also is harder to tamper with, and provides more information on offender compliance with supervision orders. State Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that the pilot program will start with 100 inmates, but if successful, will cover nearly all 1,700 inmates on house arrest. Florida was the first state to use GPS to track offenders, particularly paroled sex offenders. Today, California, Louisiana and Texas, among other states, use GPS devices. With the enhanced monitoring, Mississippi will be able to divert a greater number of offenders to house arrest, saving taxpayers money and maintaining public safety: It costs taxpayers $41.74 per day to house an inmate in prison, compared to an estimated $11 for a person on house arrest.