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N.Y. State Senator Proposes Using GPS Implants To Track Violent Convicts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It's high-tech and certainly controversial, but with the two prisoners from the Clinton Correctional Facility still on the lam an upstate senator says one way to track future escapees is to microchip them.

Bloodhounds and expensive manhunts are so yesterday when it comes to hunting escaped prisoners. That's the opinion of one lawmaker, who says the state should explore implanting tiny GPS devices under convicts' skin.

Others say microchipping criminals could have multiple uses, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

"If you've got convicted murderers, the type of people these two men are, that it would make some good sense at that level that we should have something that we could track them," said State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Saratoga.

With 800 law enforcement officials still unable to pick up the trail of escaped murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, the suggestion from Marchione to implant microchips in people convicted of serious crimes is picking up steam.

"I'm in favor of it, but I do think there have to parameters with respect to the crime itself. I wouldn't do it for arson, which falls under the violent, but I would do it for aggravated rape and murder," said Paul Viollis, a security expert and former investigator in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"I see the public safety value in it, not just from an escape standpoint but also from an inmate-control perspective within the institution," said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said microchipping inmates is unconstitutional.

"It sounds like a knee-jerk reaction. They should plug the security inside prisons," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "As a constitutional matter, it won't survive a challenge because it's an invasion of body autonomy."

Shane, a former cop, said it might pass constitutional muster if the chip was removed if and when a prisoner is released.

"Removing it when they are paroled, those sorts of things, transitioning from a microchip to an ankle monitor, are all going to have to be explored," Shane said.

Kramer asked local residents what they think, and the responses were split.

"It wouldn't do any harm, I guess. They do it with dogs," one man said.

"It opens a whole can of worms. I think it would be a little bit extreme," added Kurt Clarke of the Bronx.

"I think that might be a good idea, maybe it'll work," said Andrew Passero of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.

"I heard about it in other parts of the world, so I would say yes," said Beata Perrasi of the Upper West Side.

"It feels very inhumane to do that, but sometimes these people need it," Forest Hills' Bridget Westermeier added.

"Once we go down this path we're going to start microchipping all of us, which I think some people in Albany would like to do," said Paul Insermann of East Flatbush.

There's also the question of whether the microchip could be cut out the minute the inmate escaped. Experts say the chips would be embedded in the neck, underneath six or seven layers of skin. So simply cutting it out without medical assistance would pose a significant health risk, Kramer reported.

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