GPS monitoring helps Philly juvenile courts

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 Juvenile Probation Department Chief, Bennie Price holds an anklet with a 'Philadelphia Cuff' (Tom MAcDonald/WHYY)

Juvenile Probation Department Chief, Bennie Price holds an anklet with a 'Philadelphia Cuff' (Tom MAcDonald/WHYY)

Even as many people ditch landline phones at home, for years it’s been a must-have for those who are on house arrest.

While that’s changing for some, adult offenders in Philadelphia still need this old technology to serve their time at home.

Nonviolent offenders in the adult and juvenile court systems can be given house arrest at a judge’s discretion. Adults need to have a working landline at home cleared of all features, such as DSL and call waiting, or they don’t qualify.

In the juvenile system, it’s a different story. The ankle bracelets those offenders wear are actually cell phones with GPS capabilities — no landline necessary.

The device has advantages other than making a landline unneccessary – such as monitoring the young offenders when they’re approved to leave the house, said Bernie Price, deputy chief of juvenile probation.

“We have the ability of knowing where a juvenile is 24/7,” he said. “We have the capability of speaking to an offender via the GPS device which has voice capability.”

The anklet also has a software component which Price says can help solve crimes.

“Any shooting, any high-profile crimes, we have the capability of putting in the address and time and location of that crime to see if a youth was in the area during that crime,” he explained.

The anklet has another handy tool — a locator that sounds like a police siren. When someone has violated terms of release and is trying to hide, whether in a crowd or in a home, the siren helps authorities find the offender.

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