Posts Tagged ‘offender rehabilitation’

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.