Posts Tagged ‘offender rehabilitation’

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 (www.mindsagainstcrime.org) 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 (www.mindsaginstcrime.org). And if you know of a potential recipient, please contact the organization through its web site.

Journal of Offender Monitoring article authored by STOP employee

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Dennis Doffing, national director of service provider sales, has been a guest poster for Utterback’s Utterings. He has also written articles for an industry publication, Journal of Offender Monitoring. The most recent issue of the JOM (Vol. 25, Number 2) includes an article Dennis wrote about our newest device, BLU+ (blue-plus). Click here to read the article. To learn more about the Journal of Offender Monitoring, click here. Thanks to Mark Peel, publisher, for permitting Satellite Tracking of People LLC to use the article on this blog.

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.

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.