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Community Supervision

The Chicago Tribune posted an article highlighting how a lack of ankle monitors is keeping defendants behind bars. Because of the shortage, many people who were up for parole are stuck in Cook County Jail. Their original release date has been pushed back and they are unable to do anything about it because the corrections facilities have run out of equipment. Amid COVID-19, there was a massive push to reduce jail populations in the hopes of reducing the risk of it spreading in facilities. Because of this, many inmates were released and placed on parole. This helped reduce the population behind bars drastically to help mitigate COVID-19. However, this has put more stress on the already limited supply of monitors available. With having to keep people in jail, this could cause a slow in the progress jails and prisons have made when it comes to stopping the spread.

Supplies are being replenished each week but very slowly with only 12 new monitors coming in to the facility to be used. Cook County Jail said they are expecting a shipment of 50 alternative devices and 26 defendants will have their electronic monitoring orders returned to be viewed by a judge. COVID-19 has created a lot of chaos when it comes to supply shortages in jails and prisons. It was not foreseen that this many people would be released on electronic monitoring devices to reduce prison populations. As more monitors come in, people who are stuck in jail are being released to serve their jail term or parole at home.

TRACKtech, LLC is a company working hard to provide companies and facilities with electronic monitoring devices. Our platform is user friendly and monitors all program members efficiently and in a timely manner. TRACKphone is a device that allows officers to check in with their program members regularly through biometric identification and allows them to monitor the program members location with customized geofencing applications. TRACKphone also provides extensive resources for program members to use to rehabilitate better into society. Our extensive platforms aim to reduce recidivism and can help get people stuck in jail out. The platform helps officers manage their caseloads more efficiently while still monitoring each one closely. During this crisis, TRACKtech, LLC has continued to improve their products and hopes to be able to do their part during these uncertain times by providing an electronic monitoring system during the shortage of them.

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Community Supervision

Electronic supervision of individuals on probation and parole has been a very widespread and acceptable form of monitoring. With COVID-19 running rampant, facilities are scrambling for ways to reduce jail and prison overcrowding to keep inmates and staff members safe. There are now twice as many people under community supervision than are incarcerated in the U.S.

An article was published highlighting the difficulties of resources allocated for probation and parole. Many individuals are given probation sentences or being released on parole to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These two forms of release serve as alternatives to prison sentences with over 4.5 million people in the U.S. being supervised in the community, compared to 2.2 million being incarcerated in 2016. The numbers have only continued to rise since then. However, with this many people being supervised and probation and parole officers being limited, the extent of time spent with individuals is slim and can lead to re-incarceration. Recidivism is high for individuals who do not feel supported or given access to imperative resources when rehabilitating and entering society again. Probation and parole officers do their best to meet the needs of each individual they are in charge of but are stripped for time and resources when it comes to treating them with the same amount of support and focus.

TRACKtech understands the difficulty officers face when it comes to having too many caseloads to handle. That is why we have designed a fully integrated community supervision platform that allows officers to have more time within their large caseloads but also provides them with more resources and support to give individuals. Our TRACKphone allows supervision officers the ability to remotely check in with program members through biometric identification and videoconferencing. Geofencing capabilities are built into the phone and alerts are sent to officers when individuals are non-compliant or in violation of geoparameters. TRACKphone also has built in resources and programs for members to take advantage of and feel supported. This ultimately reduces recidivism and provides officers with more time to check in with program members to make sure they are able to rehabilitate into society.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Mental health and well-being are important for all individuals to remember. Taking care of yourself is the first step when it comes to taking care of others. You will only get so far in helping others without having the right mindset for yourself.

In the criminal justice field especially, remembering to look after yourself is a top priority so that you are able to help your clients. Being a community corrections officer proves difficult due to the number of caseloads and individuals they are responsible for, as well as the high-pressure workspace they work in. You are responsible for keeping individuals in compliance and the public safe, which can bring about a lot of stress and fatigue. Your well-being can be put on hold while working a difficult job, but it should never be suppressed.

Some recommendations for taking care of yourself are as follows from SAMHSA:

  • Be physically active
  • Sleep and eat well
  • Avoid increasing alcohol and drug use
  • Stay in contact with loved ones
  • Turn to colleagues for support
  • Meditate
  • Try breathing exercises
  • Seek sources of humor
  • Journaling or drawing
  • Participate in spiritual practices

There are many more tips that SAMHSA recommends that can be found in the article above.

Work burnout is more prevalent than ever, as technology brings many benefits but also drawbacks as people always have to be available, even at home. Distinction between home and work life balance are becoming blurred, especially during COVID-19. Read more about work burnout and understanding how to balance this issue between work and life. It is important to support and take time for yourself. Well-being of individuals in the criminal justice field is especially key because if they do not take care of themselves, then they cannot take care of and help others.

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Justice Reform

Facilities and programs are facing difficult decisions when it comes to budgeting and funding as many lack funds on a daily basis, even more so now with COVID-19. The Government Executive posted an article on how agencies will need to spend a little to gain a lot to help them in the long run. With COVID-19 hitting the world hard, “tackling societal challenges will require federal, state and local governments to turn to innovation that’s supported by credible evidence.” This will prove to be a process but one that is necessary to continue operating and providing for those who need it.

One step that has been discussed is that public agencies should take a very small percentage, around 1 – 2% of program dollars, to create an innovation fund within every major program or portfolio of related programs. These programs range from reducing substance abuse addictions or lowering recidivism and prison rates, or even boosting high school graduation and the number of children able to go to school. These innovation funds should be structured so that agencies can address a number of issues using a variety of strategies.

One strategy is ‘“tiered-evidence” grants to test, validate and scale effective policies and interventions.” This strategy uses successful models at the federal level to provide. Another is prizes and challenges that use cash awards and other incentives to create a wide net for innovative solutions to priority issues. These can be won by any individual, business, institution and non-profit organization. Outcome payments require specific outcomes to be achieved by providers and result in payments but still allow for innovative approaches in order to receive the payment. These have included projects aimed at reducing prison recidivism, substance abuse and homeless populations while keeping them out of jail. Finally, waiver demonstrations allow jurisdictions or providers to modify existing program rules. This protects vulnerable populations while making sure the program is effective.

It may seem crazy to suggest investing a little more with such limited funds, but it is necessary in order to create long term benefits. These innovative funds are one step in the right direction when it comes to changing the system and making progress. Investing a little now and spending will only prove successful and show agencies they have a lot to gain from it.

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Public Safety

It is no secret that the prison system is harsh and rigorous for both staff and inmates. Many inmates struggle with having access to care and resources when imprisoned. The Crime Report published an article about these difficulties and how dozens of prisons, including ones in Louisiana, Connecticut, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, are facing legal charges and being targeted in COVID-19 civil rights lawsuits.

Inmates tell their stories of how they were denied access to medical services and resources when sick or at-risk of contracting COVID-19. Prison staff, as well as inmates, struggle with COVID-19 procedures. There are shortages and difficulties when it comes to having enough staff to run facilities due to COVID-19 protocols. Inmates and staff feel wronged and are fighting back against the violations they have suffered while incarcerated and working for the prison systems. The lawsuits highlight that correctional authorities’ response to COVID-19 has been defined by inaction and resulted in consequences in the health and well-being of staff and inmates. Many individuals are seeking the release of inmates who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 to help reduce the death toll that has been spreading through facilities.

As of July 21st, approximately 70,700 individuals behind bars have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 700 have passed away, with these numbers continuing to rise. The well-being and safety of officers and inmates should be a priority. In order to help mitigate the spread and keep people safe, de-incarceration and community supervision has been the go to. Innovative solutions need to be considered in order to stop the spread and keep lawsuits at bay.

TRACKtech supports the health and well-being of officers and their clients in these hard times. With our solutions, probation and parole officers can remotely check-in with individuals through biometric identification and video conferencing. This allows both to stay at home and keep social distancing protocols while still being able to monitor the individual through geofencing built in to our TRACKphone. TRACkphone also provides resources and programs for rehabilitation and to help individuals feel at ease after being incarcerated. It is an adjustment into the society, especially during COVID-19. Community supervision is becoming the new norm as it reduces populations at risk of contracting COVID-19 in facilities and the costs of incarceration. Mobile supervision is one solution to the problems that keep arising in the criminal justice industry and the safety measures needed to take to mitigate COVID-19.

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Justice Reform

Slowly, more people are supporting the idea that reforms in the community supervision system are feasible and working, according to an article published by The Crime Report. Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance, elaborated more on the situation of how COVID-19 has affected and influenced these changing views. The pandemic has led offenders to be able to remotely check-in with probation officers, which allows for more focus and time being spent on rehabilitation. Government resources in the past have been spent on maintaining a parole and probation system that sends more individuals back to jail for technical violations rather than criminal behavior. It is structured to punish the individual instead of rehabilitating and taking a more reformed approach to reducing recidivism. Many individuals have expressed they do not feel supported by their officers and find it already hard readjusting to life outside bars without having to worry about all the technicalities. Arthur Rizer, a former police officer and law professor at George Mason University says community supervision should support individuals released from detention rather than just supervise them.

In order to reduce mass incarceration, something has to change in the support and rehabilitation resources offered to individuals in the community supervision division. TRACKtech, LLC is working to bridge this gap between individuals not feeling supported and provided enough resources to stay out of jail. With the TRACKphone, officers are able to remotely check-in with individuals via bio-metric identification and video conferencing. This allows for them to monitor an individual’s location and make sure they are compliant. Individuals also have access to a wide variety of rehabilitative resources and calendar reminders for job interviews and appointments. This helps them better integrate back into society and provide them with some stability to reduce recidivism rates.

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Community Supervision

With COVID-19 still being rampant in the United States, release of individuals from prisons and jails has been a solution to overcrowding. A recent article highlights how Tuolumne County Court won funds for a pilot pretrial release program. Tuolumne County Court Executive Officer Hector Gonzalez shared a new pretrial pilot program under a two-year grant to improve pretrial release practices, which began on June 30th. The program was created to address jail overcrowding, reduce failures to appear, prioritize community safety and reduce discrimination based on wealth and race. Tuolumne was chosen with 17 other counties to participate in the pretrial release program. It was awarded $632,000 by the Judicial Council of California (JCC) to work on pretrial release.

Many jails have been releasing individuals before trials, as there is no space in jails to keep them. Overcrowding has become an even more pressing issue during COVID-19 as it puts inmates and staff at risk. The pretrial program is working to keep people safe while providing an alternative to keeping individuals in jail while awaiting trial.

TRACKtech is a platform designed to help officers with pretrial individuals as well as those on probation and parole. With the TRACKphone, officers are able to remotely check-in with individuals via bio-metric identification and video conferencing. This allows for them to monitor an individual’s location and make sure they are compliant. Individuals also are sent calendar reminders for court dates, to help ensure they show up. This reduces technical violations and helps keep the individual responsible for appearing in court, while remaining out of prison. Pretrial release is a prevalent issue that TRACKtech can help solve by allowing officers and courts to be in contact with the individual and still monitor their location. Our products provide an alternative to people being out on release while awaiting trial, instead of overpopulating jails.

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Public Safety

The Marcus Harris Foundation posted about children of incarcerated parents needing support now more than ever. COVID-19 continues to turn the lives of families, especially those incarcerated, upside down. Children with parents who are incarcerated already suffer from lack of resources and recognition but even more so now. The children are not the ones at fault for being incarcerated but continue to feel the full effect and problems that come with incarceration of a parent. These children miss out on celebrating major milestones with their parents and now with COVID-19 affecting visiting hours and interactions with family members in prison, children are suffering even more. They are unable to visit or talk to their parents and continually worry about whether they are okay and safe.

Children may not understand the direct issues and problems that come with COVID-19, but they certainly can sense the stress it is putting on their loved ones. Facilities are being shut down, there is a concern for lack of equipment and testing in jails and prisons, early releases of individuals and movements of criminal justice reform that are causing riots and distress. An organization, Our Children’s Place (OCP), is encouraging communities to consider what they can do to support children whose parents are incarcerated. Professionals are able to check in with children and see how they are doing, while providing materials and resources such as books and tool kits online for youth. The resources are made for the children but also provide information for their caregivers and family members about access to food, books and other types of distribution efforts for children with incarcerated parents.

Children are the next generation of the world and need to be supported and cared for by all to show them the endless possibilities that still exist, even if they have parents who struggle. Learn more about how you can help in a time of need by visiting Our Children’s Place website linked above.

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Jail Overcrowding

A local news station in Bannock County, Idaho published an article on how one problem, COVID-19, has solved another problem, overcrowding, in their county jail. Sheriff Lorin Nielson recounts how Bannock County Jail is much too small for the number of people being kept there. The jail has seen overcrowding for six or seven years according to Nielson. This overpopulation problem has caused chaos in the jail, including riots, fights and major lack of space for inmates. Additionally, the funding to build a new, larger jail is not possible as it is not appealing to county taxpayers.

However, COVID-19 seems to be helping reduce the jail population.  The courts have been sending people home on what they call “their own recognizance”, which is a no-cash bail system. Instead of sitting in jail until they are able to post bail, they are being sent home without having to pay a bail fee. People being sent home are normally incarcerated for a DUI or misdemeanor violations, including technical ones. With these people being able to go home, there has been a major reduction in overcrowding and unnecessary individuals in jail. Usually, the jail reaches capacity at 333 people but last Wednesday reported there were only 250 people incarcerated. This has been the lowest number of people incarcerated in a while says Sheriff Nielson.

Also, “own recognizance” is helping contain the spread of COVID-19, as it mitigates officers, personnel and inmates being exposed to new people coming in who may have the disease. This keeps everyone safer and helps reduce contact between individuals. The new policy is helping reduce overcrowding and keep people safer in uncertain and hard times.

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Jail Overcrowding, Justice Reform

Recently, a coalition of criminal justice reform groups have come out with a list of recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Slowly, inmates and prison employees are beginning to test positive for the fast spreading coronavirus. Because of this the reform groups have created a plan referred to as “SAFER”. They are fighting to suspend jail time for technical violations and suspend probation office visits and payments of fines. They are encouraging the adoption of smart alternatives to incarceration. And they are pushing to provide free medical visits and treatment, hand sanitizer, soap, and protective gear to help prevent the spread. Extra precautions for guards and staff are being initiated and the release of the elderly and vulnerable to home confinement is being advocated for. 

 

“People in prisons, jails, or under community supervision are more at risk of contracting and spreading the virus, given their age, underlying health conditions, and close contact to each other”, says Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance. Protecting inmate populations is just as vital to stopping the spread of coronavirus and keeping communities safe. REFORM Alliance created “SAFER” in the hopes of helping to do this as it was developed in consultation with medical and justice system experts. COVID-19 is continuing to spread quickly and it is in the best interest of communities to not allow prisons and jails to become hot spots for the virus. 

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