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New Bill Aims To Track Nevada Parolees By GPS

Updated, Feb. 24 at 12:15 p.m.

Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for the state to track people on probation or parole.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday passed Senate Bill 37, which allows the state to track criminal offenders granted parole or probation using electronic devices that monitor their movements.

SB37 now goes to the full Senate for a vote, which has not been scheduled, according to bill information posted on the state Legislature's website.

"Well, what this does is it presumes parolees are going to be near crime locations," Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, told KNPR's State of Nevada on Tuesday.

Story said what the bill says is "the parolee or probationer will be fixed with a GPS tracking device that will monitor their location at all times."

State Parole Chief Natalie Wood told the Associated Press the technology would only be used if the offenders were near a crime scene. She said that implementing the program wouldn't cost the state any funds.

Lt. David Helgerman, with the Nevada Department of Public Safety's Parole and Probation division, told KNPR in a phone interview on Tuesday the "cost of the equipment is paid for by the offender." 

"It comes to one and a half times what the offender makes for the day," Helgerman said. "So, if a parolee makes $10 an hour, they'll pay $15 a day."

But most parolees live in high-crime neighborhoods once released from jail. Helgerman said under current state law his department is prevented from using GPS to track parolees. He said it was about being able to use the same tools as probation departments nationwide.

So are we profiling people to make a community feel safer? Or is there a real benefit to society from tracking parolees even more than we do now?

"There are a couple of different issues with this program as proposed," Story said. "It presumes that the parolee ... is guilty unless proven innocent, which is just the opposite of the way this country is supposed to operate. There is no due process involved in tracking someone all the time."

Story said the ACLU of Nevada tried to have the Senate Judiciary Committee consider an amendment that said parolees could be tracked "when there exists a reasonable suspicion." He said the committee blocked their efforts to add the amendment. 

Story compared the legislation to the 2002 movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise.

"Somehow future crimes could be prevented by tracking everyone in society," said Story. "Big brother and small government advocates should be very concerned about this particular legislation."

He said if the bill makes it to Governor Brian Sandoval's desk and he signs it, the ACLU of Nevada will have to look at the option of filing a lawsuit to block the bill.

"Certainly, we are concerned that if it advances in its current form that we are essentially targeting these individuals with a scarlet letter," Story told KNPR's State of Nevada. "We think that's not constitutional."


Tod Story, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union
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Tod Story, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union

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