Archive for the ‘Legislative’ Category

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.

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.

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.

Justice Reinvestment improve recidivism and reduce corrections costs

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The ever-increasing prison costs and decreasing revenues have been forcing many states to consider more effective ways to manage corrections for several years. It"s a challenging task to balance budget concerns with public safety priorities. However, a recent report from the Justice Center highlights the effective attempts at Justice Reinvestment undertaken by several states.

The examples of justice reinvestment included in the report encompass numerous aspects of the states justice systems. While these examples don t necessarily include GPS monitoring, it"s encouraging to see states make the corrections process more efficient.

The study highlights six factors of an effective judicial reinvestment initiative.

  1. Comprehensive Data Analysis: In one cited example, Kansas examined more than 1 million pieces of data in its attempt to improve its system.
  2. Get Many Constituencies Involved: Kentucky included numerous county officials in its decision making process because state-level decisions would greatly affect county level workers.
  3. Focus on Those Most Likely to Re-offend: With limited resources, states like Ohio and North Carolina chose to focus on those individuals who were the highest risk to re-offend and return to prison.
  4. Reinvest in High Performing Programs: Relying on improved research techniques, states have been able to focus time and funds on programs found to be the most effective.
  5. Strengthen Community Supervision: Often justice reinvestment leads to more individuals on parole and probation, which means the ability to effectively supervise individuals in the community needs to increase proportionately as well.
  6. Incentivize Performance: Some states are taking the approach to reward local entities who reduced prison costs and populations with the dollar savings the local entities achieved.

As justice reinvestment continues across the country, I"m confident the GPS monitoring services offered by STOP will merit consideration as part of the overall solutions states take to improve their corrections systems.

Michigan House approve GPS for pretrial defendants

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Michigan"s House of Representatives recently passed HB 4197 making it possible for the state to use GPS monitoring technology on a new group of defendants. The legislation passed in Lansing would allow judges to consider electronic monitoring for all individuals awaiting trial for an assault charge. Currently, the only option in such cases is keeping defendants in jail until their trial date. The state currently allows electronic monitoring for those awaiting trial for domestic violence charges.

This piece of legislation is ready for a third reading by the Senate and must be signed by the Governor before it can go into effect. In addition, Michigan"s leaders need to develop precise guidelines to determine who is eligible for GPS monitoring instead of incarceration. If the bill can overcome these obstacles, it will provide a useful tool that will benefit the state"s justice system.

If made available, GPS monitoring would make it possible for an individual awaiting trial to continue his/her life while waiting for his/her case to go to trial. In some cases, this technology makes the difference between a defendant continue working and providing for the family and losing his/her job because he/she is held in jail. The real-time supervision made possible by GPS monitoring helps maintain a high level of community safety while keeping the defendant accountable for his/her movements.

There are many aspects to successfully maintaining community safety. Providing security while preserving the rights of all individuals is a challenging task. It is a task that requires agencies to use every possible tool. GPS monitoring technology is an effective tool that can assist agencies with meeting many of their responsibilities, which includes public safety and offender accountability.

Evidence shows GPS monitoring technology is a reliable tool

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Previously in this space, I focused on the legislative changes which will bring more GPS monitoring to the state of Georgia. Those changes were documented as part of a study on national corrections reform completed in 2011 and 2012 by The Sentencing Project.

The discussion of increased GPS monitoring in Wisconsin has brought to light some questions about the reliability of GPS as a tool for monitoring offenders. I would like to address those questions.

Legislators in Madison are discussing a new budget which would provide funds for the electronic monitoring of all individuals under a restraining order due to incidents of domestic violence. Wisconsin currently uses GPS technology on some, but not all, domestic violence offenders. However, the new budget would greatly increase their reliance on it.

The GPS discussion in Wisconsin has included evidence the technology has failed. The ability of GPS to consistently deliver accurate information in a timely manner has been questioned. Further, false alerts from GPS monitoring equipment have been blamed for unnecessarily sending individuals back to jail, even though they had not done anything wrong.

It is difficult to hear about these shortcomings, as they undoubtedly put a community"s safety and numerous individuals" rights at risk. Yet, there is still plenty of evidence to support the over-all effectiveness of GPS monitoring as a tool for law enforcement officials in various jurisdictions.

For example, a study completed in California in 2012 found GPS monitoring in that state led to a greater level of compliance from those under supervision. In addition, the study found less recidivism amongst individuals being monitored by GPS when compared to those being supervised in more traditional ways.

This study also pointed out several positives of GPS monitoring. First it gives flexibility by providing a viable alternative to incarceration. Further, the information provided to agencies by GPS technology is invaluable. This real-time data assists agents in controlling offenders under supervision. In addition, the GPS monitoring information is often admissible in court in the event an offender commits a crime.

Another study completed in Florida in 2010 found electronic monitoring meets the goals of the agencies using it in that state. This report indicated the risk of an offender failing was reduced by 31 percent when he was electronically monitored. This benefit was seen among offenders of all age groups.

GPS monitoring technology is currently getting some negative attention in Wisconsin. However, published reports show it is still an effective and reliable tool to use in the monitoring of offenders. As evidenced by many government agencies, the quality of the device is vital to the success of the program. Since STOP has the most proven one-piece device available, we are always ready to show agencies what a difference we provide.