Posts Tagged ‘gps tracking’

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.

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.

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.

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.

Georgia changed sentencing options

Friday, April 5th, 2013

After reading the nationwide sentencing revisions documented in a recent here conducted by The Sentencing Project, I want to highlight the changes made in the state of Georgia last year.

In 2012, legislators sought to reduce recidivism and voted to allow Georgia courts to consider electronically monitored probation as a sanction. This sanction is an alternative to prison for eligible candidates. By allowing the use of GPS monitoring the state provides a useful option for supervising offenders in the communities.

The Sentencing Project study reports on criminal justice revisions taking place in many states over the last two years. While the reforms took on various forms, the goal for all of them was to reduce prison populations while maintaining public safety.

Among the reforms touched on in the study:

  • Reduced mandatory minimums – Several states revised the required penalties for certain offenses.
  • Parole and Probation revocation reforms – Several states expanded the use of earned time for eligible individuals.
  • Juvenile Life Without Parole – Three states authorized relief for some individuals sentenced to life without parole as juveniles.

Substantial research has shown long prison sentences do little to reduce crime and recidivism. So, any effort to reduce the length of sentences is a promising step.

Despite the benefits, a shortened time in prison or jail doesn t mean releasing parolees and probationers into the community without appropriate supervision and access to needed resources. GPS and RF monitoring equipment and services provide supervising agencies and their staff members additional tools to effectively help their caseloads remain compliant with the terms of their supervision.

Equipment testing is important why?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times prompted me to think about how agencies test (or don t test) equipment prior to contract execution.

The article chronicled the extensive testing an agency conducted on a recent procurement. Without the testing that was undertaken, the agency may have chosen the wrong device to meet its needs.

During a procurement process, it"s best to tailor your equipment testing and evaluations to match the ways in which the devices will actually be used. While national standards are being drafted today, they fail to meet the specific and individual needs of most agencies. The standards apply uniform criteria for hardware and software performance to all agencies and their target population(s). You can use these standards as a guide, but ideally you’ll create procurement specifications that will lead to the device best meeting your agency’s needs.

A few ways you might customize testing/evaluation:

What are the target population demographics? Research shows juveniles wait the longest to recharge their device, and often do not follow a charging schedule. A long battery life and long notification period to correct the situation are necessary for this population. When supervising high risk offenders GPS collection rate and download rates may be important.

Does your area have any unique geographic features? Receiving GPS signals may be affected by geographical features. When you test the devices, see how the unique aspects of your community, such as mountains, skyscrapers or parking garages, affect the device"s functionality. Does the vendor have options to assist with these situations?

How is the cell phone coverage in your area? The level of cell phone coverage in your area could impact a device"s performance. If this is a concern, test each device with this in mind. If you have limited cell phone coverage, an option such as our BLUhome unit merits consideration. What provider has the best cell phone coverage?

The factors to consider when designing your testing are varied and affected by numerous considerations. However, the long-term benefits of using an effective testing program in conjunction with cost considerations and written proposals to select a provider are worth the effort.

GPS technology is extremely effective when agencies respond appropriately

Monday, March 4th, 2013

A recent story published in the L.A. Times newspaper highlights the increase in the number of arrest warrants issued since October 2011 due to parolees removing their GPS monitoring device. The story states it"s easy for a parolee to cut off the device, but doing so triggers a notification to the supervising agent.

I feel the need to address this situation and provide more background on the straps used on GPS monitoring devices. I"ll start with our BLUtag device.

BLUtag

BLUtag and its strap

BLUtag, the most advanced, proven and reliable GPS monitoring device in the industry, is used throughout the state of California by many government agencies. It has monitored, tracked and reported the movements and violations of more sex offenders, gang members, high-profile offenders and repeat offenders than any other GPS device in the industry. Using this device allows these agencies to take immediate action when enrollees violate the terms of their supervision, including removing the device.

Supervising agents usually take immediate action when they receive a tamper notification. However, ambiguity in California laws regarding offender custody has impacted the ability of agencies to maintain the appropriate consequence for various types of violations.

No technology available today can prevent parolees, or any offender, from removing their monitoring device (GPS or RF) or committing other violations. The important functionality is for the device to immediately notify supervising agents to the violation so the required action can be taken.

BLUtag"s hypoallergenic, thermoplastic rubber strap securely keeps the device fastened around the enrollee"s ankle at all times. If an enrollee removes BLUtag, the device immediately reports the tamper event, so the assigned supervising agent can take the action required by the agency and the law.

Options

One manufacturer makes a strap for a GPS monitoring device marketed as more secure, which means it"s embedded with stainless steel cables or a strip of steel. Yes, the offender can t remove the device with standard medical scissors, but neither can medical personnel for medical emergencies or law enforcement officers when booking offenders into jail for a violation.

Removing this device requires tools, which aren t usually immediately available in emergency situations. If the offender experiences a medical emergency and loses a foot or part of the leg simply because medical personnel couldn t quickly remove the monitoring device, the agency is at risk for a lawsuit.

Additionally, the more secure strap has been known to be removed where it inserts into the device or it breaks off at the same point. This certainly creates a question about its level of security. This type of strap doesn t comply with the proposed National Institutes of Justice standards for Offender Tracking Systems.

Many solicitations specifically state the strap can t be embedded with steel cables or straps. The industry (supervising agencies and vendors/manufacturers) recognizes the critical need for a strap that securely fastens the monitoring device around the offender"s ankle. But the strap can t impair the ability of either medical or law enforcement personnel from removing it, especially in an emergency situation.

And I question whatever additional security it may provide. An offender can still remove the device with a steel-embedded strap and it doesn t matter to the offender if removing the device takes a few more seconds or a few more minutes. STOP has looked at adding a strap with embedded steel to our options, but ensuring that our device works as designed outweighs this option.

Current situation

The result of the situation described in the L.A. Times news story is appropriate consequences can t be applied to the deserving offenders due to a lack of clear law. GPS is a tool, and an extremely effective one when properly utilized. The article has more to do with need to change the law in order to have proper consequences for parolees violating the terms of their supervision.

The government agencies using our device are successful with other options for handling the removal of a device and maintaining public safety as well.

GPS technology isn t just for enrollees considered high risk

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

GPS monitoring equipment is a viable supervision tool for enrollees with any risk level, which is demonstrated in a recent incident involving a juvenile in Marion County, Indiana. Even though the juvenile suspected of participating in a two-county crime spree was on electronic monitoring, it was RF technology. It is designed to report only when an enrollee is home and when he/she leaves. Marion County has four GPS monitoring devices that are reserved for juveniles classified as high risk.

So, here"s a juvenile not classified as high risk, yet he"s a suspect in fives crimes committed in two counties. Based on his curfew schedule, he left home on time in the morning. This didn t generate any kind of notification because he was complying with his supervision requirements. However, what the juvenile"s probation officer didn t know until much later was the juvenile never arrived at a school and became a suspect in several crimes.

Generally when enrollees are placed on RF monitoring, the supervising agent must drive around the jurisdiction at various times of the day and night with a mobile monitoring unit to confirm the enrollee is at the location he"s required to be at that time, such as school, work or home.

As the news story points out, staffing shortages hamper the Marion County Juvenile Probation Department"s ability to keep tabs on juveniles 24 hours a day. Additionally, the story points out some juveniles think nothing will happen if they violate their supervision requirements because they re not monitored all day every day.

BLUtag GPS Monitoring Device

GPS monitoring devices track the movements of subjects on a 24/7 basis and can help keep enrollees stay compliant with their supervision requirements. If they aren t compliant, these devices immediately notify supervising agents through email or text message.

In addition to tracking an enrollee’s movements, GPS technology allows an agency to identify specific areas where the enrollee must be, such as school or work, and places he must avoid, such as parks or shopping malls, during certain hours of the day.

Understandably, supervising agencies need cost-effective ways to increase the accountability of enrollees. The around-the-clock tracking capability of GPS devices provides a way for agencies to use its resources wisely and maintain community safety.