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Community Supervision

The Marshall Project recently published an article that touches on a bill passed by the Illinois legislature requiring community corrections officials to maintain and publish data on electronic monitoring of former prisoners, including racial makeup and rates of recidivism. The bill was passed due to a hearing in which “advocates and legislators criticized the misuse of electronic monitoring, as an independent report showed how little data the Prisoner Review Board and Department of Corrections kept on those they placed on tracking devices.” Because of this, it is now required that the board and department produce an annual report of those who are electronically monitored and for what reason. It was a necessary step to take as community corrections officials admit they have little evidence to support that the ankle bracelets are being used to show the location of former inmates and protecting public safety. Considering the state of Illinois does not have a parole system and instead requires a period of supervised release for those who have finished their sentence, it is important that they have a functioning and secure system to monitor former prisoners with. With many companies not tracking their clients and using the data collected to improve services, TRACKtech has taken the initiative to provide a better solution to monitor clients.

TRACKtech,LLC provides community supervisors the ability to monitor the location of its program members through real-time check-ins and store the data to provide supervisors access to it when they need. Supervisors can monitor the program member’s pattern of life and at risk behavior through video conferencing and behavioral health assessments. Dynamic geo-fencing helps keep program members in or away from specific locations at appropriate times, notifying the supervisor if a location violation has occurred. Community supervisors have easy access to their entire caseload in TRACKcase, allowing them to monitor and track all program members. Ultimately, the ease of TRACKtech technology avoids misuse of monitoring and helps rehabilitate those under supervision. TRACKtech strives to provide solutions to better manage and improve success of program members while increasing public safety.

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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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Community Supervision

Despite changes and reforms in the treatment of those prosecuted and detained in jails, our legal system is still riddled with dilemmas and uncertainty. Though much reform has occurred in the past year and a half, Co-Executive Director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Sharlyn Grace, stated that there are still concerns about the more than 2,000 people in Chicago that are supposed to be tracked under electronic monitoring. Grace insists that there is no research confirming if electronic monitoring is effective, but that ankle monitors cause a very serious restriction on liberty. Lavette Mayes, who was under electronic supervision for five months, stated that ankle monitors are just little miniature jails in the community. There is a thin line between public safety and the rights of the accused.

The goal of our criminal justice system is to improve public safety and to ensure that justice is properly and impartially administered. But how far is too far when it comes to the rights of those under electronic supervision?

Theoretically, ankle monitors are an appealing alternative to jail and provide the chance to be in the community with family and friends, but they also seem to deprive people of their rights and liberties  to a certain point. Ankle monitors require hours of charging or the offender risks being sent back to jail, so they often must stand by a public outlet and charge their ankle monitor while enduring the judgement of those around them. The monitors are also incredibly expensive, sometimes costing up to $40 per day. This exorbitant cost can keep someone from being able to pay their bills and cover basic needs. This can result in a higher risk of ending up back in jail or becoming entangled in crime as a last resort, causing a more prudent threat to public safety.

Despite the increase in usage of ankle monitors, there is a lack of extensive research to suggest that ankle monitors inherently keep the public safe to the extent that this intrusion of rights is warranted. Punitive technology is not addressing the root of the problems that people face and why they end up in prison. Instead of punishing these people, we should be using technology to help them to create better and healthier lives.

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Jail Overcrowding

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), the jail population in Coffee County has seen a 25 percent decline in recent weeks. Currently, there are about 320 prisoners in the county jail, roughly 100 fewer than a few months ago. The Sheriff’s Department of Coffee County works collectively with other county organizations and departments on the issue of reducing prison populations, while also ensuring that the community is free from risks. Coffee County has made such an improvement on their prison population primarily by utilizing modern technology.

In 2017, cases began being handled through a video conferencing system between the judges and inmates. The judge would sit on their bench in court while the inmates appear on a video monitor from the jail, completely negating fuel costs and saving taxpayers money. This practice is also safer and more secure. Before video conferences took place, arraignments could take all day and required the inmate to be placed in a holding cell in the justice center. If this trend continues, the change would lead to some $1.5 million in annual savings for taxpayers in the county.

Department officials are also examining various alternative prison practices like the use of a house arrest system with an ankle monitor. Though house arrest and electronically monitored parole has been very successful, using an ankle monitor carries a stigma and only provides the GPS location on a map. The TRACKPhone™ is a modern replacement for the ankle monitor and has a vast assortment of utilities, such as rehabilitative support, behavioral assessments and remote video meetings with parole officers. Ankle monitors can be excessively expensive, costing up to $40 a day. By taking advantage of TRACKTech technology, Coffee County could reduce their prison population even more while saving more money for the taxpayers.

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Justice Reform

In Cook County, IL, there are more accused criminals monitored by electronic ankle bracelets than the rest of the Illinois Corrections Department statewide, 300 plus of which are missing from the monitoring program, according to documents ABC7Chicago obtained from the Cook County Sheriff.  Almost 50% of those who are currently on ankle bracelet monitoring are accused of either violating gun laws or committing violent crimes.

One of these offenders is Jovany Galicia, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history. He was awaiting trial on gun and assault charges. The 26-year-old was listed as an armed and habitual criminal on the county records, yet he was still placed on an ankle bracelet.  Electronic monitoring through the form of an ankle bracelet for violent criminals awaiting trial or on parole poses a high risk for public safety. Not to mention, how many of the 300 missing monitored offenders are violent? 

Ankle monitors can be a reliable way to track and maintain those accused with non-violent crimes awaiting trial, however, offenders with violent crimes or gun violations require more attention and monitoring than those with less serious crimes. While an ankle monitor provides a location on a map, it lacks the capability to assist offenders with reintegrating into their communities. To make a real change in the effectiveness of electronic monitoring on high risk and violent offenders, new technologies must be utilized. TRACKTech provides not only GPS location monitoring but also real-time information on offenders, risk factor scoring, compliance monitoring, and rehabilitative support.

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Jail Overcrowding

Although the bond reform in Illinois has reduced prison overcrowding substantially, it may be detrimental to public safety. According to Cara Smith, the Chief Policy Officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, keeping track of the 300 offenders who have removed their ankle bracelets is a challenge that has gotten much more difficult since bond reform. An order was made in 2017 by the Cook County Chief Judge, Tim Evans, that would require judges to set affordable bonds for defendants that did not pose a danger to the public.

Bond reforms have become very prevalent in many states and Illinois is no different. Elected officials have been trying to release those who were being detained in Cook County Jail while they await trial. Unfortunately, this has caused an increase in violent offenders with serious criminal histories being released early. Tristian Hamilton, a convicted felon with a criminal history of gun charges and aggravated robbery, was released with electronic monitoring, and he went AWOL in December 2018, without any form of supervision or communication of his whereabouts. Smith insists that this problem is one that not only the sheriff’s office should be concerned with, but the whole county stakeholders. A terrifying dilemma to this extent directly impacts public safety and it is a collateral response to reform.

Reliable technology is necessary to manage this complicated result of reform, especially for high risk, violent offenders. Reliable accountability for the whereabouts of these offenders is necessary to ensure they are taking the proper steps towards reintegration into their communities and ceasing their life of crime. 

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