Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

Additional research on reducing recidivism released

Monday, February 1st, 2016

In the December 2015 issue of Federal Probation, there was an article presenting the recidivism research the Administrative Office of the U.S. Court recently completed. This study is one of the few I’ve come across with current data and further confirmation that supervised released reduces recidivism. The report is well worth the time to read it.

But as I continue working in the electronic monitoring/GPS industry, I wonder is there more that can be done to further reduce recidivism? Everyone and anyone can play the “what if” and “what about” games:

  • What if the caseloads were smaller for supervising agents?
  • What if the agents increased their interaction with the offender?
  • What if a treatment plan was required for every offender?
  • What if technology was used to further supervise the offender?
  • What about increased involvement with the family or support structure by the agency?
  • Etc.

I always present our devices and services as a component of a good supervision model. But technology isn’t right for everyone. For some it’s overbearing and may create additional obstacles for the offender. For others, it’s the right balance of additional supervision and accountability, while allowing the offender the ability to reconnect to the community. The challenge for agencies is making sure they have access to the tools, experts, studies to further reduce recidivism. Giving people the chance to be successful helps everyone in the community.

It’s a great time to be a supporter of community supervision and interaction. The days of locking people up because we can, not because we should, appear to be fading into the past.

Journal of Offender Monitoring article authored by STOP employee

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Dennis Doffing, national director of service provider sales, has been a guest poster for Utterback’s Utterings. He has also written articles for an industry publication, Journal of Offender Monitoring. The most recent issue of the JOM (Vol. 25, Number 2) includes an article Dennis wrote about our newest device, BLU+ (blue-plus). Click here to read the article. To learn more about the Journal of Offender Monitoring, click here. Thanks to Mark Peel, publisher, for permitting Satellite Tracking of People LLC to use the article on this blog.

Check the accuracy of information, please

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Electronic monitoring has been in the news recently and some of the reporting was unflattering to the industry, but it was also inaccurate. It"s easier for reporters to simply get a quote about EM and draw incorrect conclusions about the technology because he didn t investigate further into what his source said. Because the reporter doesn’t take the time to conduct a good investigation on not just the incident itself, but the technology and its functionality and the agency and its protocols, checks and balances, etc., inaccurate information is passed along to the public that damages the reputation of the industry and the agencies using EM.

EM technology is a tool that can help supervising/correctional agencies better supervise their offenders in the community. Plain and simple it is just one more tool for agencies to use in addition to their other tools of the trade, such as assessments, random checks, drug/alcohol tests, family/work checks, etc. The basic questions to ask, since almost all offenders are released from prison at some point in their life, are:

  • Is it be better to know where the offenders are and where they go after they are released from prison?
  • Is it better to give offenders additional supervision until they reestablish themselves in the community?
  • And, is it better to give an offender an excuse for not hanging out with a certain individuals and/or group(s) of people?

If you answer “yes, it is better” to these questions, then those are reasons why supervising/correctional agencies should add EM technology into their supervision tools of the trade. We already know there isn’t a way to change one"s behavior without requiring the individual"s active participation. If there was, recidivism would’ve stopped long ago and a whole bunch of other things would have to be considered. And if there were a way to change one’s behavior without his active participation, I d immediately volunteer my services to be the one deciding whose behavior is to change. Just ask my friends and colleagues because I already try to do that and most of the time with limited success. Offering additional supervision and confirmation of pro-social behavior would support a positive reintegration into society. But people will still do dumb stuff. They will still get in trouble and owe society a debt for their crimes. However, when electronic monitoring programs are well-run operations, crimes that may be committed while in the program are solved quickly and action is swift. All of which help support changes in the offender"s behavior for the better.

The vast majority of offenders who were in an electronic monitoring program successfully complete their term of supervision. They committed no new crimes and followed the instructions of their supervising agent. How many of these people would have committed a crime were it not for an electronic monitoring device? That number is impossible to know, but I don t want to find out.

Establishment of task force important step to improving Federal corrections system

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Update: The Chuck Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections issued a competitive grant announcement. Click here for the document.

Original post:

The Omnibus spending bill Congress passed last month included funding for a committee tasked with studying federal prisons and making recommendations on a variety of issues, including prison overcrowding and improving rehabilitation and reentry procedures. One million dollars was allocated to the bi-partisan Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, which will have nine members.

This investment in the improvement of our federal corrections system has been needed for a long time. As I wrote previously, the United States simply can t afford to keep warehousing criminals. Hopefully, the establishment of this task force will be the first step toward a more effective corrections system, which more appropriately places each offender based on his or her criminal history and, psychological state, into an effective support structure and provides access to available resources.

The nation"s prisons are currently in an unsustainable situation for the long term. The system faces numerous issues including prison overcrowding, violence in prisons, prisoner rehabilitation and employment programs, and recidivism. By creating this task force, Congress has taken the necessary first steps to start a difficult conversation about the nation"s broken criminal justice system.

Fed. Probation Reform Act: Supports GPS Monitoring Programs

Friday, December 13th, 2013

U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei from New York State is proposing legislation to hold federal probationers accountable for tampering with electronic monitoring devices. Maffei introduced the Federal Probation System Reform Act hoping to prevent another incident like the one involving David Renz in Syracuse from happening again.

In March 2013, Renz removed an electronic monitoring device from his leg, raped a 10-year old girl and killed her mother. Maffei believes if his proposed legislation had been in place in March, it may have prevented the tragedy.

This critical legislation provides a heightened level of accountability for parolees, probationers and pretrial defendants who attempt to circumvent their supervision guidelines. Even a well-run program can be rendered powerless when supervision violations result in minimal negative consequences. Maffei"s proposed reform calls for stronger discipline to deter supervision violations.

According to Maffei"s proposed legislation, a probationer who tampers with an electronic monitoring device can receive up to one year in prison. A probationer who commits an additional crime after tampering with his/her device can receive a sentence of up to four years of incarceration on top of the punishment for the additional crime.

Provisions of the Federal Probation System Reform Act also strengthen the support given to the nation"s parole system. Maffei"s legislation calls for the appointment of an Inspector General to oversee all Federal Parole, Probation and Pretrial Services offices. Further, the bill establishes a nationwide policy for responding to alerts caused by tampering with electronic monitoring devices.

This bill would give much needed assistance to federal community supervision programs. It is an uphill battle to maintain control over probationers, parolees pretrial defendants when there are no substantial consequences for their failure to cooperate. The Federal System Reform Act is a positive step towards providing those consequences.

Continue community improvements with 2nd Chance Reauthorization

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Update: In connection with the Second Chance Act, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance released a competitive grant announcement. The grant is for Smart Supervision Programs. Click here for the document.

Original post:

By reauthorizing the Second Chance Act (HB 3465 and S 1690), Congress can assure countless organizations throughout the country will continue to have the support needed to make profound and positive changes in their communities. The legislation currently under consideration would extend, for another five years, the support of various programs that reduce recidivism.

The Second Chance Act, originally signed into law in April 2008, enhances and improves communities by providing financial backing to agencies that support individuals returning from jails, prisons and juvenile facilities. This assistance takes many forms, such as mentoring and substance abuse and/or family counseling. During FY (fiscal year) 2013, the Second Chance Act invested more than $100 million in 62 projects across the U.S.

Below are few of the projects made possible by the Second Chance Act. These programs demonstrate the need and success that is achievable through this legislation. The funding available through the legislation allows agencies to creatively improve their communities through adaptation, flexibility and customization of projects to meet local community situations. There is also a need for additional funding, but that fight can live for another day.

Since its original passage, this bill and its funding has helped improve numerous communities throughout the nation. A five-year extension of this important act should be a priority of Congress. I urge you to get involved and contact your Representative and/or Senator today to urge action on this bill.

West Shorline 2nd Chance Connections (Ottawa County, Michigan)
This successful program includes a 13-week transitional employment initiative to prepare individuals for employment after incarceration. Participants start with a temporary subsidized position. They also receive special training in communication and problem solving to improve their chances of long-term employment success.

Co-occurring Program at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Lino Lakes (Minnesota)
This program focuses on two key issues among incarcerated individuals: substance abuse and mental illness. Participants benefit from integrated treatment as they return to communities throughout the state. Studies determined more than 10 percent of those in prison suffer from substance abuse and mental illness. In light of this statistic, this initiative"s components, which include mental health and substance abuse treatment along with pro-social skills development and employment and job readiness services, is essential.

Project Reconnect (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Women with children face special challenges when returning home from incarceration. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma serves the women of their community in this challenging transition. This project makes it possible for mothers to visit their children while still in prison. In addition, the work of the Girl Scouts provides parent classes for women as they near their release and supplementary education classes for the children.

Family Support for Treatment and Reentry Success Center for Family Success (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Treatment and family service providers in Oregon work with incarcerated individuals and their families to assure a smooth the return home from prison. One impressive feature of the initiative provides services to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families repair relationships and reconnect with each other.

2013 Training Institute: Intensive training for agents

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I ve written before about the importance of training for an agency"s employees who will implement and operate a GPS monitoring program. A GPS device, no matter its capabilities, is a tool and agents must know how to use it properly to achieve an agency"s goals.

At STOP, one of our priorities is providing our customers with a range of resources so agents gain a comprehensive knowledge about how our hardware and software function individually and collectively. One resource is our annual Training Institute, which took place in Atlanta earlier this month.

More than 70 agencies and independent service providers were represented with the 137 agents. The attendees received 10 hours of training on our enrollee monitoring system. Our customers chose to attend three of the four breakout sessions.

  • VeriTracks: The Next Generation — Customers learned about the next generation of VeriTracks and its functionality.

    Attendees gather around our BLU+ blow-up at the end of the breakout session on our newest enrollee monitoring device.

  • BLU+: The RF Alternative — This year we introduced BLU+ (blu-plus), which is a new RF monitoring device with location capability, which allows supervising agents to confirm enrollees entered a designed location on time without the use of a mobile monitoring unit.
  • Witness Testimony Preparation — Supervising agents frequently provide courtroom testimony for enrollee violations. This session highlighted the information needed to articulate the basics of GPS technology in a courtroom setting. The agenda included reviewing commonly asked cross examination questions.
  • Talking With Elected Officials So They Listen — Elected official are frequently part of an agency"s stakeholder audience. This session provided tools to help agency directors and leaders have productive discussions with elected officials, as well as possible sources for alternative funding.

Franklin County, Ohio, award

We also recognized a few customers as having an outstanding GPS enrollee monitoring program. The awardees for 2013 are Charlevoix County Probation and Family Court (Michigan), Superior Court Social Services Division (District of Columbia), Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department (Illinois), Franklin County Municipal Court (Ohio), Tehama County Probation Department (California) and Tehama County Sheriff’s Department (California). We congratulate these and all of our customers on their enrollee monitoring programs that help maintain high levels of enrollee accountability and community safety.

Our customers returned home with new skills and information that will help them use our enrollee monitoring system more effectively so they can help keep their communities safe. For more information about the 2014 Training Institute, contact STOP at info@stopllc.com.

CA prison situation: more post-release services and supervision needed

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

A recent op-ed piece by Lois Davis in the Los Angeles Times addresses the need for the state of California to increase its focus on education and job training for inmates. I agree with Davis" assessment that the best way for the state to reduce its prison population is to dedicate more resources to the preparation of inmates before they return to the community.

In addition to Ms. Davis" recommendations, more services for parolees after they are released, including a GPS monitoring program, are advisable. Take a few minutes to read Ms. Davis" perspective on this important issue.

Major Changes in Federal Sentencing Policies

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder"s speech to the American Bar Association last week called for "sweeping, systematic changes to the U.S. justice system, which are long overdue and very much welcomed. He outlined his new Smart On Crime plan for the Justice Department.

In speaking of his reforms, Holder said, We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. In addition to the new Justice Department policies, Holder also pointed to bi-partisan supported legislation that would save the nation billions of dollars by taking a more strategic approach to incarceration. For example, $80 billion was spent on incarceration in the U.S. in 2010 and the U.S. continues to incarcerate the largest percentage of its population than any other country.

Holder also described the Justice Department"s proactive partnering with the U.S. Department of Education to address a school-to-pipeline system and zero-tolerance discipline policies. He said these policies should land a student at a police station facing charges for a minor offense.

The Smart on Crime plan also includes expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, which I agree and support. As Holder explained, incarceration can be an effective tool with strategic use when coupled with other components to cultivate a successful justice system and a safe community.

Alternatives to incarceration have proven to be effective by numerous studies and implementations by state and local governments. While Holder"s plan does not necessarily include electronic monitoring in every jurisdiction just beginning the dialogue on a national level is a huge start in the change process. Hopefully, this start will trickle down to more jurisdictions and allow further alternatives and sentencing reform to take hold.

If you ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I ve addressed this topic before and shared the actions taken by individual states to improve their justice system by various means. So, it"s encouraging to see this emphasis on Justice Reinvestment is now taking hold at the federal level.

With your plan in place, train your team to carry it out

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

In my previous post, I talked about the importance for a GPS monitoring program to have effective policies and procedures in place before implementing the program. I discussed the need to use best practices, customize each program for a specific situation and keep the system as user friendly as possible.

Once these policies and procedures are established, it"s equally important to invest the necessary resources into training the supervising agents using the GPS monitoring system on a daily basis. Even the best GPS system is a tool and supervising agents using it need to know exactly how it works to consistently achieve an agency"s goals, including offender accountability and public safety.

With this mind, here are four keys to an effective training program:

Scheduling: Don t scrimp on the amount of time needed for sufficient training even if training does not involve new technology. We ve experienced situations where the program managers want all of the training to take place in a much-condensed timeframe. This means the trainees receive a high level training at best and can t really delve into deeper applications of the GPS monitoring system and how it can help your team in its daily work. It also means the team likely won t have time to discuss the rationale behind various policies and procedures.

Curriculum: While every vendor has a basic curriculum to teach supervising agents about its GPS monitoring system, it needs customization to reflect the policies and procedures of the agency to increase its effectiveness. Some agencies change policies and procedures in many small ways, especially when changing vendors for its GPS monitoring program. By combining training on the new system with changes in policies and procedures, your team can visualize how all the parts should work together.

Follow up training: Sometimes follow up training is needed if your team experiences difficulty with certain aspects of a new GPS monitoring system and/or policies and procedures. Follow up training can help smooth out these bumps. To recognize bumps, you and your vendor must work closely together during the first several weeks after initial training. Staying alert for trouble areas can be tracked through inquiries to the vendor"s technical support center and the types and number of event notifications supervising agents receive in their daily summary report.

Open learning environment: Encourage your team to keep asking questions when they arise during training sessions and afterwards. Cultivate an environment where colleagues look out for ways to help each other find solutions and feel they can access the vendor"s technical support center for additional help or explanation.

Effective training is a foundational element to the success of any program, whether it"s a GPS monitoring program, sales and marketing, accounts payable/receivable, etc. And effective training is a responsibility of both the vendor and you, the agency"s program manager. Working together to develop a curriculum reflecting the expectations of the agency"s leadership cannot happen without input from both parties. Working together, solid policies and procedures and a good training programs are key elements to a community supervision program that fulfills its goals and mission.