694.4 Tracking risk: GPS electronic monitoring and the production of risk knowledge in different cultural contexts

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 11:30 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Heather ROLLWAGEN , Sociology, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Erin GIBBS VAN BRUNSCHOT , Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Recent technological advancements relating to global navigation satellite systems (commonly known as “GPS”) have reshaped offender management practices. GPS technology is used extensively in the United States, but has also been adopted more modestly in Canada, Australia and Brazil.  The popularity of this technology among crime control practitioners is consistent with the goals of prevention, precaution and pre-emption that characterize the present culture of criminal justice (Rose 2010). Importantly, however, is that GPS technology has altered the way in which “risk” is conceptualized and assessed.  GPS electronic monitoring technology allows crime control practitioners to monitor the movements of individuals in “real time”. Information on an offender’s specific location can be considered alongside information relating to his or her offense history and patterns. Together, these sources of information produce a new form of risk knowledge. While GPS technology itself remains similar across contexts, the ways in which this risk knowledge is used is culturally variable. This paper begins by considering the types of risk knowledge produced through GPS electronic monitoring. We then consider how this knowledge intersects with the cultural specifics in which the technology is employed, focusing on Canada, the United States, Australia and Brazil. We investigate how this risk knowledge intersects with cultural contexts to potentially alter the way in which offenders are categorized and managed. Our analysis provides insight into how the dynamics of risk are shaped by new forms of correctional technologies at the same time they intersect with factors that are culturally specific.