Convicted sex offenders should not be punished for violating the terms of their probation if they can't find a power outlet to charge their GPS monitoring devices because they're homeless, the state's highest court said today.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today in a case involving John W. Canadyan Jr., who was released on probation with the requirement, among other things, that he wear a GPS monitoring device.
But after Canadyan's release from prison he was living in a homeless shelter that could not provide residents with access to a reliable electrical outlet necessary for operating the GPS device, the court said.
At a probation revocation hearing, a judge found that Canadyan had violated the conditions of his probation because he had failed to make sufficient efforts to find a job that would have allowed him to find housing – and get access to a power outlet.
But the SJC reversed that ruling. "In these circumstances, where there was no evidence of wilful noncompliance, a finding of violation of the condition of wearing an operable GPS monitoring device was unwarranted, and is akin to punishing the defendant for being homeless," the court said.
The court noted that the case highlighted a tension between mandatory GPS monitoring of sex offenders on probation and "the practical reality of homelessness."
Mandatory GPS tracking is intended to protect the public from sex offenders, but the laws also affect the ability of former sex offenders to get jobs and reintegrate into the community, the court said.
One of the consequences, the court said in a seven-page ruling written by Justice Robert Cordy, has been an increase in homelessness. And for homeless sex offenders GPS monitoring can be both "problematic and challenging," the court said.
The court, however, didn't offer any solutions, saying, "This larger problem is not one that can be, or need be, solved in this case."
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