Posts Tagged ‘innovative GPS monitoring technology’

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.

2015 Training Institute: New format still produces great success

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Satellite Tracking of People LLC hosted its 9th Training Institute in Denver, Colorado. The format of the Institute changed slightly this year based on attendee feedback from previous Institutes.

Eighty-eight people were invited to attend, representing 43 partner agencies. This year attendees arrived the afternoon prior to the first day of the conference. They were entertained through dinner with the start of an online game that lasted through the Institute. The first day of the conference was a full day of interactive learning and discussion sessions.

I introduced STOP"s focus for 2016: Informatics. STOP currently has three tent-pole components of Informatics and will expand on them throughout next year. The three main components are:

Timeline This is an easy to read graphical representation of an enrollee"s activities, which can be reviewed daily, weekly or monthly. Within a given time increment, the enrollees are highlighted allowing the supervising agent/officer to quickly look for patterns or areas of concern.

Associations This feature shows enrollees who are together at the same location during the same period of time. Many agencies prohibit their enrollees from being in contact with each other. If any enrollees are at the same location during any given timeframe, an icon displays on the Visit for each of the enrollees. Supervising agents/officers simply click on the icon and immediately know the identity of each enrollee at the location and their arrival/departure time.

Crime Scene Correlation STOP developed crime scene correlation more than 10 years ago and we enhance its functionality annually. This year"s addition was the ability to do a spatial query over a designated geographic region. No address is necessary to determine if an enrollee was near the scene of a crime or near and area where a suspected incident occurred.

During the Institute, attendees received 10 hours of training that is not available anytime outside of the event. The discussion-driven courses were interactive and participatory to increase attendee involvement."sTOP also gained valuable suggestions to improve our products and services by the attendees.

The 2016 Training Institute is tentatively planned to be in San Diego, California in September or October. We have a lot to live up to the expectations set by our previous Institutes, but we look forward to showcasing STOP again next year.

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.

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.

GPS technology continues to be a valuable tool for supervising agencies

Monday, February 18th, 2013

A recent news story in the Washington Post reports less than 10 percent of the 1,351 defendants released from custody into the DC Pretrial Services Agency"s GPS monitoring program in 2012 were charged with new a crime. The story notes in 2012 at least 11 pretrial defendants were charged with violent crimes while awaiting trial.

It is always disturbing when a crime is committed, especially a violent one. However, the crucial role GPS monitoring devices play in effectively supervising enrollees in the community cannot be negated by infractions like the ones described in Washington Post story. The need for using GPS technology to monitor, supervise and track the movements of various populations, such as pretrial defendants, gang members, sex offenders, etc., continues due to the realities of our criminal justice system.

Facing crowded jails and back-logged court dockets, judges, prosecutors and other court officials often face difficult decisions when determining if a defendant can be back on the street until his/her trial date. GPS provides a viable option the best one short of continued incarceration or 24/7 shadowing by a law enforcement official when it comes to monitoring a defendant"s whereabouts.

In addition, on the rare occasions an enrollee a GPS monitoring program does commit a new crime, the tracking system provides law enforcement officials with vital information about the enrollee"s location around the time of the crime. Most importantly, GPS data has and continues to lead officials to an enrollee"s location and provides court-admissible evidence of where the enrollee travelled before, during and after the crime in question.

Finally, a new outcomes study released

Friday, July 13th, 2012

It"s been years since a significant study of the efficacy of GPS on reducing recidivism and increasing compliance was completed and released. The original large-scale study was released in the mid-2000"s and nothing had been completed until recently. On March 31, 2012, Development Services Group, Inc. released a 100-page report on Monitoring High-Risk Sex Offenders with GPS Technology: An Evaluation of the California Supervision Program. This report was prepared through a grant from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Although I found it an interesting read, to cut to the chase, the study showed, although slightly more expensive than traditional supervision, GPS monitoring improved program compliance and reduced recidivism when compared to the control group.

Important points of the report include the size of the study and the approach the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) takes to supervise parolees in the community. The Department provides an intensive supervision model few agencies employ, with lower case loads, available treatment programs and progressive sanctions.

I suggest you take some time to read this report and see how STOP can help you put together a program as successful as CDCR"s. The study can be found at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/238481.pdf.