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Success Stories

Four large counties make up one Colorado Judicial District that has utilized TRACKTech’s comprehensive platform to enhance public safety and improve lives through TRACKphoneLite (TpL). This intuitive app is installed on the mobile device of an offender which then provides a multitude of useful features, such as location tracking, video conferencing, behavioral health assessments, rehabilitative support and compliance monitoring.

The District has been using TRACKphoneLite primarily for relieving case load, streamlining check-ins and saving their Supervising Officers valuable time. The check-In feature has been recognized as being essential in saving time for both the program member and the supervising officer. “I believe it is saving time on curfew checks. I am able to send a location request and move on to the next one. I have one client that is on TRACKtech in lieu of GPS – she checks in frequently.”

Curfew visits are very common, and when an officer has many checks in a night, it can become exhausting, time consuming and even dangerous. “For me I’d love to use it for all my [program members] as it would save me a lot of time and keep me off the streets at night doing curfew checks. I want it for my entire caseload.”

It can be extremely problematic to keep track of an offender who travels regularly and TRACKphoneLite has made that so much easier. “I love the check in feature for people that I have had difficulty locating during home visits/employment checks and for those that move frequently or travel for work frequently. I feel like it is a great benefit to supervision.”

Video Conferencing has shown to be one of the most beneficial features of TRACKphoneLite for the Judicial District, as it completely negates the need for the offender to visit the office for an appointment, especially if there are extenuating circumstances that make attending very difficult.  “I had one client who could not report for an appointment.  Rather than reschedule, we had him complete a full appointment via video conference.  The appointment was very productive.  The client was engaged, and it saved time with rescheduling another appointment.  It was also helpful for the client who struggled with transportation.”

TRACKphoneLite is especially effective for juveniles, as using a cell phone has become almost essential to their lives. Going through the criminal justice system is not an easy process, and this application helps to ease them through it in a more familiar and comfortable way. “Yes, there is a benefit to the client. I think not only from the juvenile’s perspective but also from the parents and other people residing in the house because it’s less intrusive than late night home visits. I believe the juveniles like interacting on phones. Even with PO’s it’s more “natural” for them because this is just how they interact with people now. So, their demeanor is different on the video conferencing than in the office because I feel they are more relaxed. I think the check-ins are easy for them as well. It doesn’t interfere with whatever they are doing at that time as it’s a simple click.”

Supervising officers for these juveniles are seeing the benefit of this application as well. It has saved them countless hours and made them feel much more comfortable checking in on their members. “If it was my entire caseload it would do wonders. I could simply click my entire caseload in seconds where curfews can take hours and sometimes multiple evenings. The time period that it takes aside, the safety portion can’t be ignored. Bad things usually happen at night, having to do less evening trips because of this would mean less opportunities for ‘bad things’. Also, the video conferencing would be great for everyone. They don’t have a ride that day (which is a major thing with kids, since they can’t drive) no problem, just do it over video. They forget it (because kids don’t prioritize well) no problem – video conference. Having difficulty visiting them at home and can’t keep trying every week, no problem, just video conference.”

TRACKtech’s goal is to reduce recidivism rates and improve the lives of those in the criminal justice system, helping create functioning members of society. The TRACKphoneLite application is just one of many ways to increase success by accommodating to individual needs and lessening the workload of officers. Observe. Predict. Influence.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

A MetroHealth initiative that supports people who have serious mental health diagnoses and criminal convictions has been making strides to help people get their lives back and stay out of prison. The Wellness Reentry Assistance Program (WRAP), which began in 2013, identifies Cuyahoga County jail inmates exhibiting serious mental health conditions and provides them health care and support. It also provides addiction care for the 30-50 percent of inmates who are struggling with substance abuse. 

The free program is instrumental in ensuring inmates continue to receive the help they need through re-entry. Program members learn to fill out food stamp applications and social security paperwork, receive job training, and learn how to find housing. They also are informed on how to schedule and arrange transportation to a doctor’s appointment and have their prescriptions filled. Rashell Tallen, a WRAP nurse care coordinator, explains how devastating and confusing the world can be for someone who has just been released from jail. “I see it time and time again, it’s very overwhelming for these folks. They don’t know where to start. You walk out of jail and you might have lost your apartment and all your clothes and everything. You’re just standing there on the sidewalk. Our patients know that they can come here, that we have a plan.”

This program not only helps those who are currently incarcerated, but also those who have a criminal history. The program has improved the lives of nearly 900 people since 2013. The people participating in the program are usually low-level and nonviolent offenders. Between 2015 and 2018, 214 people participating in the program were arrested and jailed half as often as before they were in the program. 

WRAP costs between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, and has garnered support from the Woodruff Foundation, the U.S Department of Justice, and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County. The program’s founder, Ewald Horwath, has had success with the program because they do not stigmatize their program members. “We don’t view our patients primarily as offenders, even though they are in jail. We’re approaching it from the standpoint of these are people who need treatment.” And their treatment is working.

One 38-year-old mother from Parma, Shannon Kuhn, attributes her regaining control of her life and getting sober to WRAP. She was approached about the program during a 2-month period at Cuyahoga County jail over a year ago – her first time being incarcerated. Since then, her charges have been dropped and she is awaiting expungement, all because of her participation in the program. She was homeless and staying with a friend, she had lost all hope. She had never received the kind of support that she got from the program before, and it overjoyed her. “They let me know that they were going to be there for me. They have been there for me for over a year now, every step of the way with anything I needed.” Thanks to this innovative program, she now has a home, a full time job, and a car. She can live her life with her daughter, sober and brimming with ambition.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Recidivism

Behavioral health professionals say it’s important to address mental health issues – even more so for an incarcerated individual. Corina Fisher, a Psychologist at L.E Phillips Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls, WI, states that we desperately need better services in jail. Recidivism will not be reduced, and criminal behavior won’t be stopped by just locking up offenders with mental health issues. These individuals need to be rehabilitated so that when released, they can become productive citizens of society.

Governor Tony Evers of Chippewa County, WI has made a recent budget proposal to expand services to inmates with mental health needs. His new proposal would improve a statewide program called “Oars”, or Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, which is aimed at providing mental health resources to prisoners considered to be at a high risk of reoffending.

The Chippewa County Jail can accommodate up to 200 inmates, with a daily average of 130. In that daily average, Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk says that they deal with both female and male inmates with some type of mental illness. He says that it can be a serious challenge for law enforcement as their resources for handling this group is limited. Unfortunately, that lack of mental health resources often eventually leads these inmates right back behind bars. Kowalczyk said that today he is witnessing more and more issues of mental health than when he first became sheriff more than a decade ago.

Over 300 prisoners participated in the Oars mental health program last year. This new budget proposal includes funding for an additional 225 prisoners and could greatly improve the chances of those with mental illness to get a head start on improving their lives and overcoming recidivism.

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Community Supervision

The sheer multitude of technical innovation in the last century has transformed almost every aspect of contemporary life, from GPS and social networking to touch screen smart phones.  Society has moved on, why hasn’t compliance monitoring technology?

Improvements in electronic technology and the increasing pressure of prison costs, overcrowding and recidivism rates has made the prospect of offender monitoring much more appealing. To date, electronic monitoring has been primarily used as a way of providing the location of offenders but not much else. To some who have successfully reintegrated into the community, ankle monitors are incarceration by another name. They are expensive, unsightly, and automatically show the public that the person wearing it has been in trouble with the law. By utilizing electronic monitoring in the form of a smart phone, offenders are more easily accepted into the community and can foster confidence in their rehabilitation.

With innovations in technology, such as the TRACKphone™, supervising officers can dispense positive reinforcement and rehabilitative support while enforcing compliance. Offenders equipped with the TRACKphone™ are verified with biometric identity confirmation and are given behavioral assessments to evaluate their risk score.  Trends in their usage of the phone can be identified and provide their supervisor with valuable insight into what specific therapeutic materials would most benefit the offender. Cognitive behavioral therapy and rehabilitative support enhances the offender’s quality of life and significantly reduces their chance of committing another crime and returning to prison.

One of the largest advantages with innovative electronic monitoring is the ability to maintain necessary control of individuals in the community while providing them the opportunity to maintain family ties, employment, and self-improvement.

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Public Safety
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week takes place the week of April 14 – April 20, recognizing the dedicated men and women who are the first line of defense and comprise emergency response agencies. Bartlesville Police Department Dispatcher, Teri Roberts, is one of these people. She listens to the caller’s needs and types information into the computer system, which takes eight monitors to manage. She asks the caller questions about the type of call and their location, while maneuvering her mouse to one of the screens dedicated to the radio frequencies for 20 different agencies. Roberts quickly notifies the Fire Department and Ambulance of the address of the call and the details of the caller’s emergency. She takes pride in her work, and after completing the call she states, “It’s all in a day’s work, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Securely located in the Bartlesville Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the dispatch center has three different shifts, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 15 dispatchers contracted to handle all the 911 emergency calls across the entire county. Rick Silver, Special Assistant to the Chief of Police at Bartlesville Police Department, is responsible for the dispatch center. From the 1st of January to March 31st, Silver recalled that over 4,200 emergency calls and over 18,000 non-emergency calls to 911 had been answered by dispatchers. “I’ve always told everyone my whole career that being a cop was what I wanted to do. To me that was the easy thing. I would never be a dispatcher,” Silver said. “It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that job because it is very hectic sometimes. People don’t realize the volume of calls that come in there.”

Dispatchers aren’t just the first line of defense for the people calling in, but also for the officers who are handling these calls out in the field. A dispatcher must be a multi-tasker, someone who is able to gather information and provide it to the officers and responders in the field while remaining calm and professional during stressful and intense situations.

Terri Mcarty, who has been a dispatcher for 33 years, says she wouldn’t do anything else. “It’s just what we like to do – help the community, and it makes you feel good that you are able to help somebody in their time of need. We are behind the scenes, and no one really knows who you are, but it just makes you feel good to go home at the end of the day and know that you helped somebody.”

Jon Copeland, Undersheriff of Washington County believes that dispatchers are crucial to assisting local deputies. “They are the heroes behind the scenes, the unsung heroes. They are the ones taking the initial information and letting deputies, EMS, fire, and police officers know where they need to go. They gather quite a bit of information and check up on us when they are on a call.” He is so thankful for the calm and steady voice on the radio. “It’s priceless. We can’t thank our dispatchers enough.”
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Jail Overcrowding

Jail overcrowding is one of the most increasingly devastating dilemmas plaguing our justice system. One Missouri county, with the assistance of a company called All Detainment Solutions, claims to have a fantastic and cost-effective fix – storing their surplus of inmates in semi-trailers in a parking lot surrounded by a wire fence. It has been one year since Greene County adopted this unconventional practice. There are currently 108 men living in the 52-foot semi-trailers, meaning that every person has space that is less than half the capacity of a ping-pong table. Greene County Sheriff, Jim Arnott, has assessed that most of the men in the trailers have been charged with a crime and are pending trial, some of them could even be innocent. Many legal experts have deemed the confined spaces in these trailers as inhumane. David Shapiro, former staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, has deemed this temporary jail a “recipe for disaster.”


Until work is completed on their expanded jail, the situation is said to be temporary. However, the completion of the jail is still years away, with no specific date of completion. County officials have suggested that the temporary prison could be kept open even after the permanent facility has expanded. There is already a multimillion-dollar contract with Canyon County Idaho for All Detainment Solutions to build a similar jail, and most likely more to follow.


Though this temporary jail is a creative and cost-effective way to tackle the problem of overcrowding, it will not solve the problem. Overcrowding of our prisons is just an indication of a wider problem with our underfunded criminal justice system and lack of sufficient community services. Instead of investing in warehousing inmates, we should be investing in programs that allow low-risk offenders or those who can’t afford bail, to be released on community supervision, saving both space and money.

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Justice Reform

Seattle, a city once beautiful, thriving, and a hotspot for tourism, is now a collapsing swarm of trash and decay, according to the recent documentary, Seattle is Dying. This once gorgeous city now looks like the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. Mountains of trash pile up on the sidewalks, parks, and under overpasses. Small villages of camping tents can be seen everywhere. It is not uncommon to see the inhabitants of these tent villages consumed by their own demons or madness, ranting and raving in the streets. Downtown Seattle is especially plagued with this darkness, shopping trips with family are a thing of the past. In this new third world city in ruins, everyone is used to it. This has become normal. People are dying in the streets and no one cares. Compassion has twisted into apathy. After seeing the destruction done to such a thriving city, one might wonder, how could this happen?

Seattle spends around one billion dollars on their homeless problem, but this is proving to be superfluous. The property crimes in Seattle last year amounted to an astonishing 5,258, while New York City only had 1,448. Crime is rampant in Seattle, and there are almost no repercussions. Of a list of 100 repeat offenders in Seattle, 100% of them had a substance use disorder and were homeless. Less than half of them were evaluated for mental health issues. On average, they each had 36 criminal cases and 7 jail bookings in the last year. Many of the people on the list are unapologetic of their behavior. One of these homeless offenders, Travis Berge, hasn’t been arrested for more than a year. He is proud of the lengths he’s gone to acquire the drugs he is addicted to, and shameless of the citizens he’s hurt along the way. He feels that the justice system has shown him “deference and love” and feels that he will not be arrested again. This system has a 100% failure rate, and there seems to be no action taken.

Scott Lindsay of Public Records stated that “if you take someone into jail, don’t give them meaningful help, and then put them back into the community, they’re just going to commit the same crimes in the same places.” Our criminal records show that is exactly what’s happening. In 2006, for every 100 reports received, 25 of them were not filed. In 2016, for every 100 reports received, 46 were not filed. Nothing happened to reprimand these crimes. Of the remaining 54, one third were dismissed. Only 18 of 100 reports resulted in convictions, but after plea deals and lenient sentences, few people are held accountable.

Shouldn’t these problems be easily solved by the justice system and police officers? Seattle police officers are afraid to speak out. They are absolutely terrified of losing their jobs, pensions, and support for their families. Anonymous police officers filled out a questionnaire by KOA News about their thoughts on the state of their city, and what is being done to fix it. The responses are frightening and heartbreaking. They are angry at their judicial system that seems to favor cheesy plea deals and ridiculously low sentences that put these felons back on the streets in days. They feel powerless and believe they can no longer enforce the law they were sworn to protect.

One police officer, Todd Wiebke, made a great effort to find common ground between him and the homeless dwelling in Seattle. He showed compassion, respect, and encouraged the public to not give up hope. However, his belief that Seattle could be saved was tarnished when he was given the order to impound an illegally parked RV that homeless people had been living out of and was then chastised for following those orders. He quit the next day. He states, “The only thing I can equate it to is that we’re running a concentration camp without barbed wire, up to and including the medical experiment of poisoning these people with drugs.” There were weapons and drugs in every camp. People in Seattle now feel secure keeping drugs on them. The police were no longer necessary to this new lenient system. According to Todd Wiebke, the only solution to life in Seattle right now, is just to move.

According to the statements of the anonymous Seattle police officers, this is not so much a homeless issue as it is a drug issue. “Homelessness and drug use have become such politically charged issues. Politically charged in that the city, including S.P.D. administration, have ceased to be interested in policing this population. In a misguided attempt to help this population, the city has allowed the streets to be essentially taken over. The city is falling apart and becoming more unsafe due to politics surrounding low level criminal activity and homelessness. We don’t want to screw over the homeless population, we just want the ability to police them.”

Ari Hoffman is on the committee of a cemetery that has been desecrated by homeless camps and drug paraphernalia. This should not be happening in a civilized modern society. He has found prostitutes, drug dealers and countless homeless camps on the cemetery grounds. The gravesites are riddled with needles and there is crystal meth on the tombstones. Many citizens share his frustration and are backing him on his run for city council. He hopes to fix Seattle, but so much change is needed to replace what has been broken in this now fragile and hopeless city.

The crisis in Seattle has been deemed to be caused by homeless, but drugs are the starting point, and there is nothing officers can do about it. It has gotten to the point where any homeless person on the streets is in some phase of addiction. Substance abuse is the driving factor of why many of the homeless are still trapped in their lives of eating trash and living in tents. It’s easy to feed their addictions here. The legal amount of drugs allowed on your person in Seattle is 3 grams. That’s enough for 30 doses. Crack cocaine, heroin, and meth use are on the rise. Unless someone who is found to have low level amounts of drugs on them happens to have a warrant for their arrest, they are never taken to jail. The criminals of Seattle have realized this, and they are using it to their advantage. It is not uncommon to see recreational use of these hardcore drugs in open air. Drug dealers only carry less than 3 grams on them, and they are untouchable. “It is impossible to combat the open-air drug market in this city,” states one of Seattle’s police officers.

Drug dealers get arrested and nothing happens to them. They go free, they go on to sell more drugs and ruin more lives. The disregard for humanity with the action of selling life ending drugs needs to be acknowledged, and these dealers and addicts need to be locked up and rehabilitated, or this vicious cycle will continue, and Seattle will die.

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Justice Reform

Congress has begun to take steps in tackling the enormous fiscal and human costs associated with mass incarceration and the barriers affecting reintegration into society for those convicted of crimes. On Dec. 21, 2018, President Trump signed a bipartisan federal criminal justice legislation known as The First Step Act of 2018. The new law, which reduces sentences for some offenders and expands employment training and other educational programs, reflects a major focus on rehabilitation and money-saving policies by the Republican Party, a far cry from its punitive position in the 1980s.

 

The law requires a federal prisoner to be put in a federal prison as close as possible to the prisoner’s primary residence. This could quite possibly resolve the issue of family separation, which is one of the leading causes for problems during rehabilitation. The law also grants the possibility of low risk prisoners serving part of their sentences under community supervision, using electronic monitoring.

 

The First Step Act contains a multitude of other impressive justice reforms, such as broadening eligibility for elderly offenders to partake in compassionate release and home detention; provides funding for reentry and rehabilitative programs at the state level; restricts increased penalties and minimum penalties for previous drug crimes (not retroactive); requires the Bureau of Prisons to expand its opioid and heroin dependency treatment; restricts the use of juvenile solitary confinement; requires a “recidivism risk” evaluation of each inmate and provides incentives to participate in recurrence reduction programs; and provides the opportunity to receive “time credits” for certain detainees that can lead to earlier pre-release custody.

 

The epidemic of mass imprisonment in America has caused irreparable damage to countless individuals.  These reforms, while far from perfect, are essential for improving the lives of those currently incarcerated and their strained families.

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Jail Overcrowding

In the beginning of February, the House of Delegates in West Virginia approved a bill to help alleviate the overcrowding of their regional jails. The bill (HB 2190) requires individuals charged with certain misdemeanors to be released on personal recognizance instead of bail. This leads to both humanitarian and practical advantages, according to House Judiciary Chairman, John Shott, R-Mercer. 


The House Judiciary Committee was informed last week by Deputy Corrections Commissioner, Mike Coleman, that counties paid regional jails $1.9 million in 2018 for defendants who could not post bail of $1,000 or less. In 2018, approximately 3,750 people were jailed on misdemeanor charges and spent 11 days in jail before they were capable of posting bond. With a total of 41,058 days billed to counties, this policy of bail for misdemeanor charges carried a hefty price of $48.25 a day.


Spending any amount of time in jail, even a few days, can drastically affect one’s ability to retain a job. It is not uncommon for those waiting in jail to lose their jobs due to missing days of work. Not being able to tend to children or support their family is also an unfortunate outcome of time spent in jail while waiting to pay bail.  Misdemeanors generally include petty theft, disturbing the peace, public drunkenness, and traffic violations. Booking misdemeanor offenders takes time away from law enforcement officers that could spend their time on more serious offenses.


Releasing those accused of nonviolent crimes on personal recognizance is unquestionably valuable in solving the encroaching problem of overcrowding regional prisons. Those charged with misdemeanors involving violence, the threat of violence, crimes where the victim is a minor, the use of a deadly weapon, violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, or traffic offenses including negligent homicide or driving under the influence would still be required to pay cash bail. 


This legislation allowing the release of most individuals charged with non-violent crimes on personal recognizance bonds was advanced to the Senate, where it passed with a vote of 91-4. Reforms such as this bill, are necessary to mitigate the encroaching dilemma of jail overcrowding. In addition to allowing officers to be present for more serious offenses and giving offenders the accountability of appearing for their court date, the reform will grant counties the ability to allocate those costs to other budgets.
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Success Stories

On February 5th, Donald Trump held his State of the Union Address, and someone very special attended.  Edward Douglas, one of the first people to be released from prison after the enactment of the First Step Act, has benefited greatly from this new justice reform. After being incarcerated for a low-level drug offense he was delivered a life sentence 16 years ago in 2003. 


On January 10th, Douglas was released by a federal judge. He was one of many inmates who were doomed to serve decades for selling small quantities of crack. His children, who had been only toddlers and teenagers when he was incarcerated, are now 17 to 30 years old. Many of his children, some of whom he last saw on the morning he was convicted, drove to welcome him home. He never imagined he would see his family again. “They all came in at the same time, kids, grandkids, and they couldn’t all hug me at the same time, so they took their time crying.” Douglas remembered it as an experience he will take to his grave.


Edward Douglas, like many other inmates recently released, is ecstatic to get his life back on track. He immediately began rebuilding his life. He paid off old traffic fines, checked in with a probation officer, studied for his driver’s license and spent time with his family. He hopes to eventually work at his old job again. 


The story of Edward Douglas illuminates the profound malfeasance in our broken criminal justice system. Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike celebrated the First Step Act as a common-sense measure to reduce the punitive impact on nonviolent offenders. With reforms such as this, there is a real hope of giving a meaningful life back to those released from prison and their families.
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