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Some Legal Experts Say GPS Rules Too Tough On California Kids

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Some legal experts say the policies for GPS, or ankle monitors, worn by juvenile offenders in California are so strict that many kids end up unintentionally violating the rules. 

The rules vary from county to county, but most prohibit electronically monitored teenagers from leaving home except for school or other pre-approved activity. But a new UC Berkeley School of Law study finds the complexity of rules can derail teens.

"We were repeatedly seeing our clients really struggling on electronic monitoring and then they end up back in jail," says Kate Weisburd, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center who represents juvenile offenders. She co-authored the study.

"The rules are simply lifted from the adult system and imposed in the juvenile court system without any adaptation for adolescent development," says Weisburd. "For example, in most counties young people are prevented from leaving their home unless they get pre-approval. In other counties young people who are on GPS can't engage in extracurricular activities or have a job."

Rigid restrictions on movement, Weisburd explains, increase a teenager's isolation, which may negatively affect their cognitive and social development.

"Every time a young person is detained for a GPS monitoring violation they fall further behind in school - if not completely disenrolled by their home district - they miss out on counseling appointments. So short but frequent detention very much undermines rehabilitation," says Weisburd.

Weisburd says some counties require a parent be home at all times, that schedules be approved weeks in advance, or that landline phones be set up in the home...which could be a challenge for poor families.

"GPS also disproportionately impacts low-income families," says Weisburd. "Counties are able to charge fees to families to have their child be on an electronic monitor."

A bill making its way through the state legislature would remove those fees statewide.

Steve Milne

Morning Edition Anchor & Reporter

Steve is the Morning Edition anchor for Capital Public Radio. He covers stories on a wide range of topics including: business, education, real estate, agriculture and music.  Read Full Bio 

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