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Community Supervision, Jail Overcrowding

Bristol Herald Courier recently highlighted how Sullivan County’s pretrial release program looks promising. Pretrial release is becoming a new norm as jails shift from having people just sitting in jail to being on house arrest or electronic supervision. So far, Sullivan County has had success in their pretrial release program as individuals have been compliant and friendly according to Officer Brandon Ferrell. The program was created the prior year in an effort to help reduce overcrowding, as Sullivan County jail was ranked the most overcrowded large jail in the state in 2019. The program is managed by two teams, with five officers working out of the office at the jail determining who can be released and preparing them for it and then the other team works in the community checking in on the released individuals.


With COVID-19 continuing to influence jail populations, more and more individuals have been selected for the program, with 91 being released in March, totaling 165 individuals released since January. Judges have been more inclined to release individuals during these times knowing the program is in place and has showed positive results. They are pushing to release individuals to reduce overcrowding in facilities and to keep facilities compliant with safety protocols in place for COVID-19. In one way, the pandemic has instigated positive change in the jail because it has pushed judges to trust the program and not hesitate on releasing individuals into supervision.


“Once you get in the [criminal justice] system, it’s so hard to get out,” Officer Ferrell said. “We’ve got to do something to help people that can’t seem to get back on track.” 


TRACKtech was created to do just this. It is imperative that individuals in the criminal justice system receive more support to get back on their feet and stay out of the system, as it is very hard to do. Rehabilitative measures need to be taken instead of punitive as they are proving to be more successful. TRACKphone provides this support through rehabilitative programs and resources on the phone. TRACKcase provides officers the ability to check in with individuals remotely through biometric identification and video conferencing, as well as has real time location monitoring and geofencing capabilities so officers can easily check on them. The phone also has calendar and appointment reminder capabilities, so individuals are less likely to miss appointments or court dates because they forgot about them. TRACKtech provides an alternative solution to individuals being in jail and taking up resources, time and risking exposure to COVID-19, all while allowing officers to monitor them efficiently and safely.

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Press Release, Recidivism

TRACKtech CEO, Michael Hirschman and a leading academic in the field of criminal justice, Joe Russo, were guests on Ryan Warner’s Colorado Public Radio (CPR) show, Colorado Matters.

 

Hirschman and Russo spoke about the pros and cons of current electronic tracking devices and how technology is changing the community corrections industry.

 

Listen to their interview and hear how TRACKtech is paving the way for positive change and reducing recidivism.

 

Colorado Matters, hosted by Ryan Warner, is CPR News’ daily interview show which focuses on the state’s people, issues and ideas.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The National Alliance of Mental Illness Tri Cities in Washington is scheduled to host a discussion about their “Lourdes Prosecutorial Diversion” program. The program provides another option for law enforcement officers in dealing with low-level, non-violent offenders with symptoms of mental illness. It has been in effect for three years, and it identifies inmates with behavioral health conditions in Benton and Franklin County Jails, particularly where competence issues arise. The vast majority of those with mental health issues are less likely than anyone else to be violent, criminal, or dangerous. According to a study published by American Psychological Association of Crimes committed by those with a mental illness, only 7.5% were directly related to symptoms of a mental disorder. People with mental illnesses are not inherently prone to crime, but for those who have persistent illnesses that are chronic and have reoccurring flare ups that impact their judgement, they may do things they normally would not, such as shoplifting or trespassing.

Jail is not a place conducive to mental health treatment. The program is in effect to engage these patients with treatment so they can return to a functioning and coherent state. Upon completion of the program, which can span from six months to a year, the inmate’s charges will be dropped if they are low level crimes. The inmate will also receive resources such as housing and medical treatment.

A large majority of these inmates are charged for trespassing. Adriana Mercado, the Care Coordinator for the program, states that trespassing is very common because these individuals are symptomatic, or they haven’t been on the proper medications. “It’s really rewarding to get somebody into a home and see that change of behavior” as 50 inmates have successfully finished the program. According to Mercado, the recurrence rate has dropped substantially among these inmates.

The program collaborates with the crisis response and in-patient unit, Transitions, to determine the most suitable placement for each inmate so they can receive medication and work on becoming stable. The end goal of the program is to reduce recidivism for those who already face a very high chance of returning to prison once they are released.

Ken Hohenberg, the Police Chief of Kennewick, has stated that “from my perspective, this is not only going to be able to help keep people out of the criminal justice system that truly don’t belong there, but also provide some hope for their families and friends. We see this as the right thing to do.”
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Recidivism

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, the delinquent population in Tennessee has increased by 11.7% in the past 5 years. On March 1st, 2019, a state grant provided support in the amount of $250 thousand to a Dyer County Jail program which aims to reduce recidivism. Funds were also awarded to Franklin County, Knox County and the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance. Over a period of two years, each facility will receive two-thirds of the $250 thousand to begin new programs or expand current ones. The Dyer County Jail collaborates with a local college, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and industry partners to facilitate the program.

These funds will be used to build a new female facility, which will be modeled after their very successful male facility. The female facility will contain 10 inmates and a classroom space, compared to the current 30 inmates in the male facility. The program aims to allow inmates with sentences of one to three years the ability to work while they are incarcerated so they can accrue funds to pay for child support, fees, and court fines. Most inmates that partake in the program will have enough funds to establish housing and become a productive and successful member of society once they are released. Dyer County Sheriff, Jeff Box, has stated that about 100 inmates have completed the program since its initiation, and technical violations such as failing to pay fines for violating probation are much less prevalent.

Reducing recidivism is a constant struggle. It is our belief that those re-entering our communities require more support than they have been receiving, and this program will be imperative to providing inmates with work experience and knowledge necessary to thrive after incarceration. Programs such as this are a huge step towards providing prisoners with a better chance for a successful and fulfilling life when they are released.

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