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Public Safety

In Charlotte, North Carolina an article was published by the Patch Staff in relation to a business robbery. The business reported two men entering the store mid-afternoon to steal money. The store owner confronted the two, trying to grab one suspect but they quickly made their escape. No one was injured in the process. After the incident, investigators were able to quickly identify one of the suspects, as he was wearing a court-ordered electronic monitoring device at the time of the robbery. The suspect had been arrested the previous month for being in possession of a stolen firearm and stolen vehicle, and then proceeding to discharge the firearm. Due to the electronic monitor on his ankle, police tracked him down and were able to convict him of the crime after a full confession. Without the tracking and pinpoints of the suspect’s whereabouts, the police would most likely not have been able to track him down.

TRACKtech, LLC is a platform designed for supervisors to be able to monitor and observe the locations of their program members. It pinpoints their location near-real time and allows for supervisors to check in with their program members remotely through the TRACKphone. More importantly than monitoring offender locations, the platform provides rehabilitative and life resources to those convicted in the hopes of reducing recidivism. Without reliable electronic monitoring devices and easy to use platforms, cases like these could go unsolved, and they also provide extra security in public safety concerns surrounding convicted felons on parole or probation. With rehabilitative resources available, ideally cases like this would not even occur. 

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Jail Overcrowding

According to an article written by the Times News, a former inmate of the Sullivan County Jail in Tennessee filed a $3 million law suit over the conditions of the jail. The inmate recalls how dangerous and overcrowded the jail was, as well as being understaffed and lacking security. He also tells his story of how he was assaulted by a correctional officer in October of 2018. Due to understaffing, lack of security and the jail not being run properly, many inmates suffer from violence from correctional officers and other inmates.

The Sullivan County Jail was built 35 years ago and is designed to accommodate 620 inmates. However, because of overcrowding it has been known to typically hold between 900 and 1,000 inmates. Some inmates do not have beds and sleep on floors in the facility, being supervised by two guards to every 300 or so inmates. The facility has been known to be considered poorly designed, with lots of blind spots, maze like corridors and security cameras that can easily be covered. These issues cause major safety threats and problems to the health of inmates and corrections officers. 

The lawsuit filed by the former inmate listed excessive force, failure to protect an inmate in custody, failure to train and supervise officers, unsafe jail conditions, assault and battery, false improvement and outrageous conduct. Overcrowding in prisons and jails leads to many safety risks and harm on both guards and inmates. It is a problem that needs to be addressed as the number of inmates increases in facilities globally. 

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Community Supervision

While awaiting trial in Arizona, defendants are being forced to choose between paying hundreds of dollars to live at home on a GPS monitoring system or wait for their trial in a jail cell. The Arizona Central published an article about defendants fighting back against the lack of affordable monitoring technology. One defendant, Robert Hiskett, could not afford the private company that supplied the GPS monitoring and with his bail set by the judge at $100,000, he was sent to jail until his trial. This has become an increasing problem for many people convicted in the state of Arizona. So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is challenging the state law that allows this practice and arguing that it is unconstitutional to convicted people. Because of this challenge to the law, Hiskett did not have to pay for the monitoring services but others are still unable to afford the monitoring services or bail, causing overcrowding in jails while they await trial. 

Hiskett and others have been told that the GPS monitoring services provided by the court cost around $400 a month and if trials are scheduled months out, the money adds up quickly. People have asked that their electronic monitoring services be covered by public funds but because the cost of the services is expensive, they have been denied. With being unable to afford bail and monitoring services, the defendants sit in jail because judges and communities do not feel safe having them on the streets without any supervision. 

Probation departments are in need of monitoring technology solutions that are affordable for the department and for people awaiting trial, on probation or parole. TRACKtech, LLC is an electronic monitoring platform that allows for supervising officers to monitor the location of their convicted program members with the abilities to check-in remotely with them through text-message and video conferencing. TRACKtech is dedicated to working with courts to create an affordable price to provide those awaiting trial the option, if possible, to not spend their pretrial months in jail. 

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Public Safety

Times Union recently published an article regarding how the Albany Sheriff’s office is going to help the homeless population. As jail populations have decreased, the Albany County Sheriff’s department is working on creating a new solution to help end homelessness. The program is set to be called the Sheriff’s Homeless Improvement Project and will use an empty tier in one of the jail’s buildings as a transitional housing and one-stop resource for those struggling to find a job, suffering from addiction or mental health issues and living on the streets. The programs for these struggling populations are centered around programs already being implemented in the jail that are offered to inmates. Sheriff Craig Apple states “whatever we can do to release somebody who can be healthy and productive back in the community, [is] our goal here.” They also are focusing on reducing recidivism rates and have already seen a drop as people are not coming back to jail. 

The jail population has been decreasing. In July, there were only 431 inmates , compared to the 1,000 it is able to house. This Albany jail is not the only one seeing a decrease in inmate populations, as the state’s total population in county jails fell over 13% from July 2018 to July 2019. Due to these new programs and the sheriff’s office working on rehabilitating inmates instead of employing a punitive approach, the jail is changing its name, to encompass its new mission; the Albany County Corrections and Rehabilitative Services Center. The jail is partnering with other centers including St. Peter’s Hospital, the Homeless and Traveler’s Aid Society, CDTA and other groups to create the program and build services. 

The homeless program is still in the works and Apple said they are trying to figure out their source of funding for food and housing. The facility will have rules similar to those of shelters and the staff will be civilians from nonprofits and the sheriff’s department. This saves the cost and limited resources of staffing correctional officers in the facility and gearing the workers towards what the population being housed in the facility will need. Apple is hopeful that this new facility and programs will help the homeless population get back on their feet and become functioning members of society again. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

An article published by the Great Bend Tribune brought attention to a problem that is occurring nationwide. It involves a crisis team looking into jail overcrowding due to the wrong placement and conviction of people with mental health issues. They are not criminals but often jailed for minor offenses which creates overcrowding. Instead of being sent to a mental health treatment center or being provided resources to help with their mental issues, they sit in jail. Some are brought in on minor charges such as disturbing the public or being in places they were asked to leave from. They have not necessarily committed a crime but still are sent to jail until they can be transferred somewhere if need be or released. This problem has been brought to the attention of many in the county of Great Bend and a conference is being held at The Center for Counseling and Consultation to talk about solving the issue of overcrowding related to mental health issues.

Dr. Tom Bauer, MD, a retired internist, and Julie Kramp, executive director at The Center, have brought people together to create a solution for this growing problem. “We’re trying to put together a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) for Barton and hopefully surrounding counties” says Kramp. With this team they are hoping it will help reduce the estimated 10% of jail populations that are not supposed to be in jail due to mental health issues. The team will take on offenders struggling with mental health issues and properly place them where need be, instead of keeping them in jail and using up limited resources. With this large of a percentage being in jail for the wrong reasons it is causing a backup for release and overcrowding in facilities. Now more than two dozen community leaders are involved in creating the Great Bend/Barton Crisis Intervention Task Force and they are hopeful they will bring about this necessary change to keep people struggling with mental illness out of jail and placing them in the right facility they need. 

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Community Supervision

An article published by The Mercury News talks about how Contra Costa County might temporarily stop collecting certain court fees from people facing criminal charges or getting out of jail. Justice reform advocates argue it is an unfair burden for the poor as they cannot afford the fees and struggle to pay them. The Board of Supervisors met two weeks ago to consider suspending the fees until the end of the year and possibly permanently eliminate them. The fees in consideration of suspension are probation report fees, public defenders’ fees and fees for alternative custody programs, including electronic monitoring and work alternatives to jail time. To make it fair for all people, the fees would be waived for everyone in court, not just those who cannot afford them. 

The fees can add up to thousands of dollars, adding additional stress to those who are transitioning out of the criminal justice system and back into society, as many do not have a job or support system to help them pay the fees. However, eliminating these fees runs the risk of losing around $1.8 million spent on court programs and operations. This would cause the courts to decide which programs to reduce or eliminate and how to deal with this loss of revenue each year. The court system is willing to work on finding the money elsewhere as the fees create huge barriers to people re-integrating into society successfully and debt free. 

The move to eliminate these fees for people has moved in the right direction and has support from district supervisors and governmental officials. Since 2017, California has been moving in the direction of not collecting fees from families and focusing on helping people rehabilitate and become functioning members of society again. Contra Costa County is hopeful they will be able to help people coming out of jail by not having to pay the fees and saving them thousands of dollars that can be put to good use for themselves and their families. 

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Justice Reform

Understaffing of jails and prisons is a major issue many states are facing. An article published by the Justice Center, The Council of State Governments, highlights these staffing shortages. Prison guards are being worn down as many of them have to work overtime and double shifts. This influences their health and cognitive ability to properly do their jobs, ultimately affecting the way prisoners are treated and supervised. One high-profile case that brought up the issue of understaffing in prisons, was Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a Manhattan prison. The night of his death, the two prison guards were working overtime because one was required to do so and the other volunteered to for extra pay. 

Prisons have a hard time recruiting guards as it is a taxing job, one that can result in harm and usually has a lower salary; all which can steer people away from applying for the job. Because of these factors, prisons are suffering greatly to recruit prison guards and fill these positions. Prisons are trying to come up with creative ways to recruit and make the benefits more enticing. They are starting to recruit through social media, increasing salaries, taking donations, improving staff training and adding staff wellness initiatives. In addition, prisons and jails are trying to reduce overcrowding by taking less inmates in the hopes of not overwhelming guards. 

It is crucial that the under staffing of jails and prisons be addressed. It poses a threat to all inmates as guards can be short tempered and worn down, which places everyone involved in their line of duty, including themselves, at risk. With more guards able to control the situation, inmates receive better care and prison violence can be reduced.

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Jail Overcrowding

Harold Edward Hill described his experience inside Madison County Detention Center in an article published by the Lexington Herald Leader. The detention center is known for its overcrowding and high-volume population, that the facility simply cannot keep up with. The conditions he describes are some people would never want to be exposed to or have to live with. He describes water leaking from walls causing mold, overcrowding, filth, sweltering heat, spoiled food and violence caused by other inmates. Those in the facility would sleep on concrete grounds without so much as a cot or mat and would be confined to spaces so small at some points they would be touching other inmates. With so many issues, it causes mental health breakdowns and many health issues that the inmates are unable to resolve. 

Harold filed a lawsuit including all these details, which were verified by reports filed by inspectors for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. All these issues are due to overcrowding and overpopulation in the facility. The Madison County jail is aware of the conditions and states “This is, and has been, an ongoing problem that we try to accommodate to the best of our ability.” The jail is built to hold 184 people but recently has held more than 400 people. With so many people and so little space, it is causing serious conflict and health violations.

Overcrowding is a problem in most facilities across the United States and many do not have the resources to deal with overcrowding or options to send inmates to other facilities to reduce prison populations. They are fined based on the violations but are struggling with finding solutions to reduce overcrowding. The Madison County jail is working to reduce these inhumane living conditions that inmates face but can only do so much with limited access to resources, space and funding. 

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Jail Overcrowding

The Loveland Reporter-Herald recently published an article about authorizing financing for a jail expansion project in Larimer County. A week ago, the Larimer County commissioners voted to issue $75 million in certificates of participation to finance the expansion of Larimer County Jail. It was the final piece of a three-part measure to address issues of overcrowding and community needs. The county will make annual payments over the next 15 years to pay for the expansion project. 

The committee that oversees the jail expansion is focused on creating more space for inmates in the jail to alleviate overcrowding. They also are concerned with creating better rehabilitative processes and programs surrounding mental health, education and substance abuse. The committee fully agrees that these are important matters to be considered and to put money towards but their priority for now is working on providing more space and dealing with issues of overcrowding. The court systems cannot always keep up with the number of cases it has, so people awaiting trial are stuck in jail until they have their hearing, leading to overcrowding. 

With the $75 million budget for renovations and expansion of the jail, the county can improve the overcrowding issue and add to the facility to house more people. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

In the past decade, more and more people have struggled with mental health issues, including depression and thoughts of suicide. Some people struggle with this when recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, as it alters their behavioral and mental health. In a report done by the Behavioral Health Barometer United States, Volume 5, that was prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, statistics were provided regarding mental health issues in U.S. youth and adult citizens.

All ages can struggle with their mental health and in turn this can affect everything in one’s life. Among youth aged 12-17 in the U.S. in 2017, 13.3% (3.2 million) had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. A large percental of the youth demographic sought recovery help with 41.5% (1.3 million) receiving depression care in the past year. Among young adults aged 18-25 in the U.S. in 2017, 10.5% (3.5 million) had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year and 7.5% (2.5 million) had a serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year. Lastly, among adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. in 2017, 4.3% (10.6 million) had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. Suicide rates have only increased in recent years causing more people to seek to raise awareness surrounding mental health issues and erase the stigma that seeking help is weak and unacceptable.

Many people do not always perceive themselves as having a mental health issue and therefore do not seek help, which can be problematic. TRACKtech.LLC is committed to helping change the behavioral and mental health of program members in the hopes of helping them recover. With access to behavioral health resources and programs, the TRACKphone can provide daily reinforcement and positive messages, calendar reminders for appointments and meetings, and a constant support system if needed. Mental health is an important issue effecting millions of Americans and it’s important to continue to provide supportive systems that encourage people to seek help.

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