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GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases shows promise

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A pilot program that uses GPS monitoring in certain types of domestic violence cases has shown promise, which has authorities and lawmakers working to extend the program throughout Minnesota.

The Ramsey County attorney's office, Project Remand and other criminal justice partners launched the pilot program in November 2012, which uses GPS monitoring as a condition of pretrial release for felony domestic violence cases, according to FOX 9. The technology tracks the location of the defendant in relation to the victim to ensure compliance with no-contact orders and to protect the victim. The project is voluntary for both the defendant and the victim, the news station reports.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says the program helps women who fear for their safety. It also helped one man who was falsely accused of violating a no-contact order because GPS showed he wasn't near the victim, according to WDAY.

In the program's first year (from Nov. 1, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2013), 19 of 170 eligible defendants participated and 12 finished with successful results. As of Friday, 27 domestic violence defendants have been in the program since it started – four are still using the GPS system and 16 completed it successfully, the Associated Press reports.

The Ramsey County attorney's office said the data set is small, but its promising, saying defendants who participated in the program complied more with court orders, according to the Associated Press. A study published in June 2012, which evaluated 18 different programs, had similar results saying when GPS monitoring is used during pretrial release, offenders almost never try to contact a victim.

Ramsey County authorities want to continue offering GPS monitoring as an option – the program will end in June if not acted on in this legislative session. A bill, authored by Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, is up for discussion in the House. The bill would set standards for other jurisdictions to set up GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases.

"We can't let this continue," Johnson said of abuse, according to the Associated Press. "It's not only the murders, it's domestic violence. ... This is a way to address it, I think, and protect the victim, and possibly provide some type of deterrent for some men."

The topic is up for discussion before the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

In 2013, 37 people killed by domestic violence in Minnesota, according to a report released earlier this year.

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