chapter  5
20 Pages

24/7/365: mobility, locatability and the satellite tracking of offenders


The satellite tracking of offenders’ whereabouts on a daily basis, using the Global Positioning System (GPS) (latterly augmented by the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM)), has grown rapidly in the USA since 1997 and has since been piloted in a number of European jurisdictions (Bavaria, England, France and the Netherlands – see Elzinga and Nijboer 2006, Miedema and Post 2006) and also New Zealand. Continuing governmental interest in it beyond these jurisdictions suggests that geolocation technologies – developed originally to gain military advantage in the Cold War and to improve the safety and efficiency of global transportation systems – are now being perceived as potentially useful means of extending and modulating the intensity of state control over the everyday lives – the schedules, movements and locations – of at least some offenders. The commercial organisations which respond to (and stimulate) governmental concern with security are becoming increasingly adept at presenting satellite tracking as both superior to existing forms of electronic monitoring (EM) (which mostly monitor location in a single place, using radio-frequency technology, not satellites) and indispenable to the penal challenges being faced in the late modern western societies (Nellis 2008). Nonetheless, despite its expansion in the USA, it would be an extrapolation too far, at the present time, to claim that the future of satellite tracking is assured in Europe. Inferences might be drawn, however, from the emerging sociologies of surveillance and mobility that, in the medium term at least, it will expand further on the international scene.