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.


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.


Justice Reform

LEVICK is a communication firm that focuses on rebuilding other companies reputations and helping fix the impossible. They recently wrote a blog featuring TRACKtech about what companies can do to embrace #BlackLivesMatter and the ongoing civil rights movements. They focused on Rayshard Brooks story and how he was one of many who fell through the cracks of the prison reentry and probation system. His story, however, has gone viral unlike many others who had devastating and unfortunate outcomes. One detail that is not discussed about Rayshard Brooks’ death is that he should never have been in contact with police the night he died. He was serving probation time, after being incarcerated, and working hard to turn his life around, as he had a job and family to support. He was trying to be better for them and to do the right thing but felt restricted by the criminal justice system.

There is a large lack of guidance and support for individuals who are on parole and probation. Many leave prison with nowhere to go, no income, no job lined up, and no knowledge of how to support themselves. Rayshard Brooks describes these hardships and needing more guidance and mentorship in a video that was recorded just four months before his death. He said he wanted “things to be better, you know, within probation and parole and also monitoring”. The system needs to focus more on looking at people as individuals and structuring support towards their needs, by taking a rehabilitative approach instead of punitive. Those serving parole have paid their debt to society through incarceration and if they are seeking to have a second chance, they should have that opportunity. It should be easier for them to turn their lives around if willing than is possible in the justice system right now.

Rayshard Brooks talked about needing a mentor and having his probation officer there for him more. With officers being overloaded with case loads, it is hard for them to provide attention to all individuals assigned to them. TRACKtech understands this difficulty for parole and probation officers but also for the individual needing more structure and resources to reintegrate back into society. Our products are designed to provide these resources for the individual, such as Rayshard Brooks, through different rehabilitative services and programs. We believe in rehabilitative practices that focus on the individual and speak to their needs. Also, our products give officers more time with each person by being able to remotely check-in with individuals through biometric identification, video conferencing and being able to monitor their compliance through an easy to use dashboard. It is vital that the justice reform system be transformed to help individuals like Rayshard Brooks who struggle reintegrating into society and finding their place again. It should be accessible and rewarding for the hard work they put into their second chance at life.


Justice Reform

A recently published article poses the question, “Could limiting the number of cases a parole officer handles improve the criminal justice system?  ” The Senate Judiciary B Committee has already passed a piece of legislation, which would limit the number of cases that parole officers are able to take on.” Many parole officers are overworked and in charge of too many cases. For each case, the parole officers must keep track of the whereabouts of their parolees, make sure they are not violating any location restrictions, and ensure they are attending mandatory appointments and meetings. 

However, many states do not limit the number of cases a parole officer can be assigned. The new legislation would not allow for them to have over 100 cases. This would help ease the frustration parole officers feel trying to keep up with their cases and being overworked. Many parole officers want to help rehabilitate people but cannot help to their fullest capacity due to being overwhelmed. Limiting the number of cases will help with this issue, allowing parole officers to focus on getting people re situated in society and improve criminal justice reform.

TRACKtech, LLC is working to reduce stress on parole officers by offering a platform for them to easily manage and help their program members. We are working smarter, using technology to make the jobs of parole officers easier and more manageable. Our platform offers geofencing, so officers are immediately alerted if members are in restricted territory. Officers can also set automatic check-ins to ensure their program members are where they are supposed to be, whether that is in therapy or at job interviews. These check-ins use biometric identification, reassuring officers that it is the program member with the device. Finally, our platform offers video conferencing allowing remote meetings and calendaring/reminders so no appointment is forgotten. TRACKtech enables case workers to monitor all their program members efficiently and in a timely fashion, which allows them to focus more heavily on those that are not compliant without neglecting others. 


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. 


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. 


Community Supervision, Public Safety

For years, the United States has struggled to provide effective support to the more than 650,000 people who return to society from prison every year. As imprisoned individuals prepare to re-enter their communities, there are many factors that determine whether they are going to build a successful life after incarceration or whether they end up back behind bars. The potential challenges for re-entry include compliance with probation requirements, gaining employment, housing security and access to behavioral health services. If we are to succeed in reducing the number of re-offenders in America, we must find ways of changing the status quo in current policies and practices and embrace emerging technologies.

Technology has the capacity to greatly affect this intractable problem of recidivism in countless ways. The benefit of technology is that it can be customized to fit countless situations. Devices that continuously monitor alcohol intake of a person have completely changed how supervisors tackle alcohol abuse with offenders. Access to internet-based applications can provide automatic updates on job opportunities, deliver therapeutic materials and assist with training skills for the offender. Case Management Systems make it easier for case workers to monitor compliance and provide rehabilitative support though a streamlined secure website. Electronic monitoring devices can be customized to fit the needs of the offender using it, such as approving certain apps, controlling internet access, and monitoring their behavior. Video conferencing and messaging can allow for constant contact with a probation officer, including after normal business hours or across distances, which would minimize conflicts between work, family, and probation obligations.

TRACKtech™ provides two options for electronic monitoring. The TRACKPhone™, which is a specialized smartphone issued to Program Members, is intended to enforce compliance for those in need of more severe supervision. It provides biometric verification, GPS tracking, and more strict compliance enforcement. TRACKphoneLite™ is a more moderate alternative in the form of a smartphone application. This application can be applied to the Program Member’s smartphone and allows location check-ins, communication with their supervising officer over video chat, calendar reminders, and community-based recovery resources. These emerging technologies have the potential to transform reentry compliance and drastically reduce recidivism.


Community Supervision

Community supervision, such as probation and parole, is beneficial in lowering the fiscal impact of prisons and reducing overcrowding while helping people reintegrate into society. While community supervision has been considered an effective way to tackle prison populations, new data shows that parole and probation might be having adverse effects. A concerning reality of the probation and parole violations effects on prison populations has been discovered in a new analysis provided by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. These numbers are taken from corrections and community supervision leaders in 50 states and develops the first thorough look into the effects of these violations.

In 2017 there were a total of 590,234 admissions, 45% of which were due to technical violations or new offenses of probation or parole. A technical violation is misconduct by a person under supervision that by itself is not considered a criminal offense and usually does not result in an arrest. These include failing to report for an appointment with a supervision officer, failing a drug test, missing a curfew, contacting a victim, or lack of employment. Technical violations are responsible for nearly 1/4 of all state prison admissions, which can result in very hefty fees. Nearly 280,000 people are incarcerated on any given day in result of a supervision violation, costing states over $9.3 billion annually.

TRACKTech™ is working to reduce these violations by making it easier for supervisors and offenders to better communicate and avoid technical violations. Our products help with the rehabilitative process and making sure program members do not violate their parameters, continually check-in remotely with officers through biometric verification and have the ability to video conference with supervisors. They are constantly sent calendar reminders for appointments, court dates, meetings with supervisors and various other needs to alleviate the excuse of forgetting or not knowing the offender had them scheduled. Rehabilitative support is provided in an array of assessments and can suggest targeted therapeutic materials to the program member, while also aiding with obtaining employment and attending community groups. With TRACktech, supervisors can keep their program members under better supervision and reduce the risk of them receiving technical violations for controllable reasons.


Community Supervision

Visits between parolees and their probation officers have been an instrumental part of the criminal justice system. The goal has always been to promote rehabilitation while keeping the public safe. But is this worth the countless hours parole officers spend driving to see their clients while facing safety risks during curfew checks at night in rough neighborhoods?

Are unscheduled visits more effective? Is it more productive to have visits at home or the workplace? Are these extra lengths worth the immense caseload? With all these factors on the table, answers to these questions are critical. An insightful recent study gauged the effectiveness of these practices. The evaluation consisted of data analysis, examination of officer’s visit checklists, interviews and focus group discussions. Though the results were promising, they did not give sufficient answers to the underlying questions. It is increasingly difficult to evaluate a visit between a parolee and their officer. The results varied greatly between jurisdictions.

An online survey by the American Probation and Parole Association in accordance with community supervision authorities in Ohio and Minnesota was sent to corrections departments. An online survey was also sent to all 50 states in an attempt to get a firmer grasp on the struggles of parole meetings and their effectiveness on rehabilitation. Thankfully, field visits overall seemed to decrease recurrence. In Ohio, people who have been contacted in the field by their parole officer at least once have had a reduction of 47% in returning to prison within two years, and a decrease of 54% in returning to prison for the rest of their life.

Some of the other results from the survey between Ohio and Minnesota were concerning, however. Supervision officers stated that they preferred field contacts at the home of the offender, so that they can understand the client’s environment, but also liked visits at their place of employment as well. This was to ensure compliance with their work requirements and helps to avoid a client having to take time off work. Which is more effective? Which is less disruptive to a client’s life and routine? Unscheduled visits in Ohio were equally as effective as scheduled ones, while in Minnesota the unscheduled visits led to significant reductions in recidivism. Why such a drastic change?  In Ohio, evidence-based practices such as motivational interviews during field contacts were important for alleviating recurrence, but in Minnesota they had no impact.

There are many variables, but the results clearly show that field visits are a critical practice to reducing recidivism. More thorough programs that assist probationers and parolees while protecting the public is crucial. There are 9.3 million people on community supervision in the United States, and over 200 caseloads per officer. These numbers are overwhelming, and with the recent changes to mass incarceration, parole is becoming even more common. TRACKtech’s revolutionary app, TRACKphoneLite (TpL), has been proven to reduce caseloads for officers while streamlining critical visits. Stressful, time-consuming traveling and dangerous evening visits are a thing of the past for officers utilizing this application. With TpL’s video conferencing system, officers can be shown around the client’s home, look in their fridge, etc. while talking face to face with the client. The application also employs a check-in system, so clients can verify their location whenever requested by their officer, negating the need for curfew visits.

Visitation is not the only aspect of parole that this intuitive application assists with. It can also help to provide rehabilitative support and behavioral health assessments tailored to each specific client. TpL monitors compliance, tracks locations, and assists with remote meetings while ensuring that the public is safe. All of the information gathered is sent to TRACKcase, lessening the strain on an officer’s caseload immensely. TRACKtech’s platform enhances the capabilities of officials and agencies in implementing individualized and responsive case plans with a more expansive spectrum of data and workflow automation, connecting program members (supervised individuals) to prosocial and communal resources, satisfying criminogenic needs, and reducing the chance of recidivism. Reaching out to those on probation and parole is imperative to increasing their chances of becoming a successful citizen of their community, and TRACKtech is here to help – one future at a time.


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.