Archive for the ‘Equipment’ 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.

Is your EM vendor ready for the future?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

There are many components of an EM system your vendor can control, such as hardware functionality and reliability, but there are also some VERY important components completely out of your vendor’s control. And these aspects are vital to the operation of your monitoring devices: the cellular network and the GPS satellite array.

STOP’s Engineering Team spent the past year working to enhance the functionality of our primary GPS monitoring device and our enhanced RF monitoring device to make sure we were ready for the upcoming cellular network changes our equipment uses to report into our software.

You may not be aware that cellular carriers are in the process of shutting down their 2G networks, which is necessitated by the data demands of consumers. Because of the timely action taken internally, our equipment now communicates on 3G networks using a choice of GSM and CDMA cellular carriers. As we continue transitioning to the AT&T and Verizon networks, our partner agencies do not need to be concerned about the impending 2G cellular network shutdown. However, many EM equipment vendors have not made the transition and there is a real risk to agencies and their EM programs using those systems.

The GPS game has also changed. The U.S. is one of numerous other countries operating a GPS satellite array. Russia, China and European nations have developed or are developing their own GPS satellite arrays. And the U.S. is deploying the next generation of GPS satellites. Our equipment is ready to use all of these systems to enhance location acquisition and improve GPS accuracy.

BLUtag now has shock sensors, anti-jamming and jamming detection, Wi-Fi sniffing, shielding detection, and I can go on. What does your vendor’s EM system offer?

Customer-focus = new functionality, new service

Monday, November 9th, 2015

As a customer-focused Company, STOP continually places the needs of government agency partners as the highest priority. Since our founding, our goal has always been to provide the best offender tracking system available. As our system enhancements have developed, we looked to expand the services we provide to agency partners.

The expansion of our service offerings began with Monitoring Center, where STOP managed key events for agencies. This service includes communicating with the officer and/or offender to correct behavior and, if necessary, escalate back to the agency for further action and/or possible sanction.

The next service offered was installing and removing equipment for agency partners whose resources were already stretched and supervising officers needed that level of support. STOP used a contractor to provide this service for some projects, but as the number of requests for the service increased, STOP and our parent company, Securus Technologies, Inc., decided to purchase the contractor so we could directly benefit from the expertise of the managers who provided this service.

Another service added was the ability to directly invoice and receive payment from offenders who are supervised by our partner agencies. Securus Technologies has provided payment services to their customers for many years, so we tapped into this area of expertise to create a service that meets the varying needs of our government agency partners. Integration from VeriTracks to Securus Online makes payment collection and processing easy and quick for the offender. They have access to 24-hour technical support and the ability to make payments online 24 hours a day (available to those offenders with Internet access).

Our government agency partners have known they can depend on STOP to listen to their needs and develop viable solutions. This strong commitment to our customers and meeting their evolving needs will not change. And we ll continue to proactively search for system functionality and services that can help improve the community supervision programs our agency partners operate.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Establishing solid policy and procedures: first step to an effective monitoring program

Friday, June 28th, 2013

While public perception may be correctional agencies can provide needed offender supervision simply by putting GPS or RF monitoring devices on these individuals, but the reality is much more complex. Even the best devices are simply tools. Agencies use these tools in a strategic manner to help carry out its mission and achieve its goals, which include offender accountability and public safety.

In the next couple of posts, I"ll discuss two of the most important ingredients to help an agency to operate an efficient EM monitoring program: policy and procedures and training.

Like any other tool, a GPS or RF monitoring system must be used within the framework of well-designed policies and procedures to guide the daily use of it. Critical questions, such as how supervising agents are to respond to each type of event, needs to be addressed in detail long before the system is activated. As each agency is unique, each agency"s protocols will reflect its mission and goals, however, some general guidelines should be kept in mind.

Use best practices: No need to reinvent the wheel. Data exists to provide guidance on what types of procedures work most effectively. This data can be used to establish solid starting points for creating protocols. Agencies can share effective practices with each other and discuss how they worked through various events. APPA, NIJ, ICCA and ACA are good resources to consider. And if agencies are looking at best practices, evidence-based practices should be introduced wherever possible so data can guide the program as well.

One size doesn t fit all: Each agency knows its own jurisdiction, population(s), mission and goals best. After using available data, reports and evidence-based practices to develop and/or updating basic policies and procedures, they need some level of customization to meet the agency"s needs. Gathering input and feedback from a broad collection of stakeholders is beneficial.

Keep it effective, but not cumbersome: An effective policy that is not burdensome to those who must follow it is a difficult but achievable goal. Agencies need to implement effective policies and procedures that include the use of and access to appropriate tools, such as RF or GPS monitoring devices, without being onerous to the agents carrying out the policies.

Once solid policies and detailed procedures are in place, training is the next step, which I"ll discuss in my next post.

CA Senate passes bill to increase penalty for tampering with GPS devices

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Recently the California Senate passed a bill to increase the penalty for sex offenders removing or disabling the GPS tracking device they are required to wear as part of their parole. The bill, introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, has moved on to the State Assembly for its approval.

SB 57 establishes a tiered punishment system for parolees who tamper with their GPS device. A first offense under the proposed legislation results in 180 days in county jail, while a third offense may result in as much as three years in state prison.

On Lieu’s web site, he cites the benefits of keeping sexual offenders on GPS monitoring. Most notably, he references a federal study that found monitoring reduces recidivism amongst sexual offenders by three times.

In light of the benefits, it"s prudent for the state of California to take steps to improve the effectiveness of its GPS monitoring program. California"s actions have the potential to maintain public safety and help the state continue minimizing the size of its prison population.

As a provider of GPS tracking devices, Satellite Tracking of People strives to make its equipment as difficult as possible to remove. However, the help enrollees remain safe in the event of an emergency situation, the device must be easily removed. Not allowing for this is irresponsible and potentially hazardous to the enrollee and others. But if the enrollee tampers with the device, STOP"s equipment immediately alerts authorities so appropriate steps can be taken to address the issue. This legislation further strengthens a successful program and will make enrollees think twice about unlawfully removing their tracking device.