The Atlantic explores the world of GPS tracking devices for convicts, concluding that they look like an appealing alternative to conventional incarceration, as it becomes ever clearer that, in the U.S. at least, traditional prison has become more or less synonymous with failed prison. By almost any metric, says the magazine, “our practice of locking large numbers of people behind bars has proved at best ineffective and at worst a national disgrace.”
Research by economists Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago and M. Keith Chen of Yale indicates that the stated purpose of incarceration, is to place prisoners under harsh conditions on the assumption that they will be “scared straight,” is actively counterproductive. Such conditions–and U.S. prisons are astonishingly harsh, with as many as 20 percent of male inmates facing sexual assault–typically harden criminals, making them more violent and predatory. More use of eletronic tracking might save billions of dollars annually, and it could theoretically produce far better outcomes, training convicts to become law-abiders rather than more-ruthless lawbreakers.