Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Paying it forward in 2015

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Satellite Tracking of People LLC experienced many highs during 2014: launching our BLU+ (blue-plus) RF monitoring device, which offers some GPS location capability; launching a greatly-enhanced VeriTracks application with easier navigation and new functionality; and completing the integration with our new parent company, Securus Technologies, LLC. As positive as these achievements are, 2014 also marked a significant low point with the passing of Peggy Conway, a leader and advocate in the community corrections industry.

Peggy passed away late in the summer after complications from long-standing health issues. She was a pioneer in offender monitoring and her career started in the early 1990s when she worked for a manufacturer of electronic monitoring equipment. She eventually became an industry consultant and for 15 years served as the Editor of the Journal of Offender Monitoring. As a consultant, Peggy was regarded as a leading expert in the field of community supervision and technology. She worked with many organizations at all levels of government both domestically and internally as well as the private sector. She was a strong advocate for Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) and routinely encouraged professionals to seek out ways to improve their program and document the steps taken and their outcomes. Peggy served on many panels and wrote numerous articles on the topic of EBP throughout her career.

The void created by Peggy"s passing motivated a group of volunteers to preserve her legacy by forming a committee to create a scholarship. The Margaret (Peggy) Conway Memorial Scholarship is accepting donations to create a sustainable fund to help future criminal justice professionals while in college. Minds Against Crime is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization administering the scholarship fund. The goal is award a scholarship to a college student who is a junior or senior and studying criminal justice. The intent is to award the first scholarship at the American Probation and Parole Association"s (APPA) 40th Training Institute in July 2015. The scholarship recipient will be given free admission to the event so he/she can meet and interact with leading professionals and learn more about industry-related topics. The scholarship recipient will also receive a complete collection of published works and studies in the field of criminal justice courtesy of The Civic Research Institute, publisher of the Journal.

Some of us at STOP knew Peggy for many years and support this effort to remember her and her many contributions to the field of electronic monitoring and community corrections. If you would like to learn more about the scholarship or donate to it, please visit the Minds Against Crime web site. And if you know of a potential recipient, please contact the organization through its web site.

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.

California study: low repeat offense rate for those under supervision

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The assumption that most arrests involve people who are on parole or probation is unfounded according to an extensive study recently completed in the state of California. The study, conducted in four cities by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, found approximately one in five arrests involved an individual under probation or parole supervision; the majority of arrests involved people who were not under supervision.

The study, the first of its kind, focused on more than 2.5 million adult arrest, probation supervision and parole supervision records from Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Redlands between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2011, which is shortly before California"s Prison Realignment legislation went into effect. The study provides valuable baseline information to use in gauging the future effectiveness of the realignment, which moved the supervision of California"s parolees into the counties hands from the state.

While the over-all results of the study indicate those on parole and probation are not likely to be arrested, there is one type of arrest to which they are disproportionately susceptible. More than one-third of drug arrests analyzed in the study involved people on parole and probation. One theory posited for this discrepancy is those individuals on parole and probation are more likely to suffer from mental illness and/or drug dependency issues. The researchers propose an increase in mental health and drug addiction services for those under supervision may be an appropriate response to this finding.

The study concludes the most effective way to reduce crime is to focus on the 80 percent of the population not under supervision. In addition, the researchers advise augmenting these efforts by better targeting the small portion of the parole and probation population who are disproportionately breaking laws, especially drug-related ones.

Obviously, more research is needed, particularly in California with the implementation of the Realignment legislation. However, this study, which happened with extensive cooperation between the police chiefs of all four cities and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, provides a good starting point for discussing many aspects of community supervision. Among those areas needing more discussion include how electronic monitoring can improve collaboration between parole, probation and law enforcement agencies. Hopefully states, counties and cities across the nation will take these results and not just talk about the issues, but work diligently toward solutions.

Educating your constituents

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Today’s post is again penned by Dennis Doffing, our National Sales Manager, Service Providers. As a reminder, he has shared his knowledge most recently about working with reporters when enrollee-related incidents happen in your agency. He’s also provided guidance on using the robust reporting capability in VeriTracks to document and support your agency’s evidence-based practices. As always, I appreciate his willingness to share his knowledge with my readers.

In this post for Utterback"s Utterings I want to discuss the importance of improving the awareness of your Electronic Monitoring program to your constituents through education. Constituents, as defined here, are everyone with a vested interest in your EM program. This can include funding sources, referral sources, public support agencies, client support groups and other key public officials. By title they are legislators, commissioners, judges, prosecuting/defense attorneys, public defenders, Sheriffs, jail administrators, victim advocates and many others. So many different people and groups are stakeholders in local programming, such as offender supervision, it makes sense to keep them up to speed on just what you are doing.

Why educate; what’s the benefit
A planned education session is very helpful to show your constituents the technology, hardware, software, program rules, policies and other aspects of your operation in an objective setting. Today all agencies have increasing responsibilities many times in conjunction with significant reductions in budget allocations or stagnant budgets, which becomes a reduction over time. All of which can create an urgent feeling to take the least complicated resolution to individual cases or broad classifications of cases.

The situation can over-simplify the handling of individual cases or offenders by backing the diverse group of constituents in your program into their individual roles and not necessarily looking at the larger picture. For example, defense attorneys will advocate the use of GPS as an alternative to jail while maintaining public safety and offender accountability. Alternatively the prosecution will advocate for the use of jail or other more stringent sanctions. This is the job of these constituents as part of the criminal justice system"s checks and balances. And what is the outcome of this situation? The loss of determining if a sanction or program is applicable to the situation because the whole picture and the goals of the program aren t visible or understood this results in each party fulfilling a specific role.

Who to educate and how
In the past, I successfully submitted a two-hour education curriculum to a state bar association"s Continuing Legal Education group as well as a state"s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) group. Attendees from both groups earned Continuing Education Units from their respective professional organization. The curriculum for both was the same and used nearly identical materials.

I put together a panel of people to speak on various aspects of the EM program, including the manufacturer"s rep, the local program coordinator and, even a judge who was an early supporter of this alternative. Equipment was scattered on the tables for attorneys, police officers and jail staff to handle and study. Packets of information included basic promotional materials, program rules, offender contracts and referral information. A computer and projector allowed us to show reports, alerts and tracking data on demo clients so everyone could view how the system worked and what information was provided to the agency with the EM program. Participation in the forum was active with lots of questions. It was a good forum for all the stakeholders to hear the same answers together as well as start discussions on who may be most appropriate to refer to the agency"s EM program. The common ground covered in the educational forum helped with future discussions among the various stakeholders and created better understanding of the program and its goals and objectives.

Continue the dialogue
Another way to provide ongoing updates and information is through a newsletter or blog (such as this one!). If your department has a newsletter, blog or social media presence, see if you can become a regular contributor by providing updates on new technology, law changes, ongoing statistics, etc. Telling readers/followers how many jail days were saved or juvenile detention stays avoided in the last month/quarter is powerful information. What percentage of clients successfully completed the program last quarter? And of those not successful, why not?

Finally, keep track of the constituents showing interest in your efforts to provide ongoing objective data and information. If an event happens in or near your jurisdiction, you can quickly contact this smaller group of interested constituents to provide whatever background or position your agency may have and help diffuse a problematic situation or further a positive one.

Handling inquiries from news reporters and others

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Today’s post is penned by a guest blogger, Dennis Doffing, National Sales Manager for Service Providers, at Satellite Tracking of People. He has posted on using VeriTracks for evidence-based practices in the past. I appreciate his willingness to share his knowledge with the readers.

I’m happy to get another opportunity to be a Guest Utterer on Greg"s Blog. Remember the old joke you know it will be a bad day when you arrive at work and a 60 Minutes crew is waiting in the lobby? Well, running an EM program means at some point you or your agency will come to the attention of news reporters, local and otherwise. Preparation by having some guidelines in place NOW will be a great help when reporters call about an incident.

Check what your agency may already have in place to handle requests from news reporters. Most agencies have a designated media relations department or public information professional. Take time to get to know these people or the individual professional and help them understand the mission of the program and the tools used to help keep enrollees accountable and change their behavior. Also explain how the program and its available tools help maintain a high level of public safety. Give them a list of contact people, including phone numbers and email addresses for inquiries received after hours or on weekends/holidays. Make sure you update the list of contact people when needed, such as changes in responsibilities, new hires or new phone/email information.

The media relations department or public information professional can likely provide training to you and/or your staff for talking to reporters. Prior to talking to a reporter, know what information can be released and adhere to the privacy laws in your jurisdiction. Privacy laws differ by state but most have information classified as public, private and confidential. For example, names of enrollees may be public due to open court information (not so with most juvenile cases), but addresses, schedules and victim information is likely classified as private or confidential.

Other ideas and considerations include:

  • Have a media packet available for reporters, which provides good background information. This usually consists of general program information, sample forms, equipment brochure, program statistics, general profile of the type of individual enrolled in the program, reports documenting evidence-based practices, industry standards" and the like. If your agency publishes an annual report, include it in the information packet.
  • Gather relevant information, reports and data on a situation as soon as possible. Also, discuss with staff members and others the need to route all media requests to the agency"s media relations department or public information professional. Reporters already know to start there, but they also want the opportunity for exclusive information and/or interviews, so they may contact you or others in your agency directly.
  • Provide a timely response to a reporter"s request. Even though all reporters work on strict deadlines, it"s okay to take time to research an answer to a question. But don t avoid reporters and their questions. Doing so can only make you and/or agency look bad to the reading/viewing public or cause the reporter to escalate his/her request to the agency"s administration or a legal subpoena.
  • Generate a simple media response policy if your agency doesn t already have one. It can be as straightforward as the agency doesn t comment on personnel issues or doesn t comment on pending violation investigations. Whatever the policy, make sure your staff knows it and strictly adheres to it.
  • When speaking to reporters, be aware of sound bites. You may answer a question with a long narrative response, but what airs in the TV report or is published in the newspaper or a web site is a very small portion of that answer. It"s the portion of your response the reporter deems to be the most relevant or news worthy to the overall story. Work the theme into your response whenever possible. This takes practice and the media relations department or public information professional can help you develop sound-bite friendly responses through training.
  • Get to know local reporters when not in the midst of a situation. Media outlets remain hungry for news and information, especially since many of them are looking to fill 24 hours of programming every day. Work with the media relations department or public information professional to proactively pitch stories to the reporter(s) covering criminal justice issues in your jurisdiction. It could be a possible story on the positive impact your program is having on enrollees, their family and the community; key points from a report highlighting positive statistics or dollar savings to taxpayers.

This is only a brief overview on some ideas related to reporter interactions. It"s important to know who in your agency is the go-to person for inquiries from news reporters and how to respond to questions from reporters. Preparation is key and will serve you well during times of stress.

2011 Training Institute Space City Success

Friday, October 7th, 2011
Satellite Tracking of People"s annual Training Institute just concluded in our hometown, Houston, a.k.a. "space City. More than 120 attendees from 67 agencies received advanced training on our monitoring system, heard about new developments with our software and hardware and shared suggestions with us so we can develop our road map for future activities.

My coworkers conducted training in subjects ranging from the basics of our software and services to utilizing evidence-based practices to increase funding and for program justification. While at the Training Institute, attendees also networked with each other and talked about how their programs operate and learned from the success of others.

I also had the opportunity to introduce a new product coming in 2012 and new strap attachments. This new device and attachment will make the coming year something great for STOP. I can t wait to talk more about them!

It was my hope the Training Institute attendees learned something new, enjoyed the views of Minute Maid Park and understood STOP"s commitment to their success and that of their agency. See you next year.