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Recidivism

The Crime Report published an article about how many individuals still face consequences and barriers after being released from prison. People are naming these consequences and barriers ‘internal exile’, as they prevent many from successfully reintegrating back into society. Although some consequences come from stigmatized views of individuals who are released, most barriers are created by federal and state laws and regulations. Due to this, Congress is now exploring the option of a new form of relief, a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This certificate will “address the absence of any general federal restoration of rights regime, leaving aside the once-robust, now rare and erratic, presidential pardon power.” The proposed certificate falls under the RE-ENTER Act of 2019 stating that a judge can issue a certificate to alleviate the burdens of a criminal record, essentially giving individuals a second chance.

Although it may seem like this certificate was just introduced, it has been around for more than a half century and was created in New York. It is currently authorized in 12 states and is becoming a major national reform law. It is important that individuals do not continue to face the many barriers they do after serving their time and trying to get their lives back on track. The certificate would alleviate the burden of not being able to fully integrate back into society and help reduce pressure on tens of thousands of Americans. “In grand, formal language, the bill explains that it is the “sense of Congress” that “a Federal certificate of rehabilitation shall act as an expungement of any prior conviction of an eligible offender for the purposes of any employment, licensing, education, housing, or other determination;” and, that a certificate should constitute “evidence of due care” in employment, housing and a variety of other contexts.” However, a certificate does not erase or pardon past convictions, it still allows access to a record if known about.

There is hope that this certificate, expanded and added upon by Congress, will make a significant difference in the lives of many. It provides a rehabilitative approach to criminal justice and is removing more barriers for people integrating back into society.

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Justice Reform

The Crime Report published an article about juvenile probation and how originally it was designed to keep young people out of jail but has recently been a driver for youth incarceration. “There are far more young people in the justice system under the supervision of probation departments than there are in any other aspect of the system,” says David Muhammad, a former deputy probation commissioner in New York City who is now executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. Youth arrests have dropped from 2 million a year in the early 2000s to around 700,000 annually and many facilities are closing juvenile detention facilities. This has led to an increase in youth being on probation and parole. However, most struggle to get out of the system and rehabilitate successfully back into society.

On average, about two-thirds of youth are placed on probation by juvenile courts, leading to a reduced incarceration rate of about 60% compared to 10 or 15 years ago. However, this leads to youth becoming trapped in a cycle of recidivating and being on probation several times. It also opens the likelihood of them having technical violations resulting in detention or being sent back to jail. While the reduced incarceration rate is a positive move forward, the support for youth community supervision needs to also continue reforming with the criminal justice system changing from punitive to a rehabilitative focus.

TRACKtech is changing the way that probation and parole officers and supervisors can provide supportive and vital resources for individuals to break the cycle of being stuck in the system.  TRACKphone provides officers and clients the ability to be in constant contact and communicate via video conferencing, two-way messaging and through biometric identification check-ins. TRACKcase provides officers with the ability to geofence and monitor the location of youth, as well as check in with them. Behavioral health resources,  homeless shelters, and life skills resources, are available through the TRACKphone for clients.

Additionally, check-in eForms can be created by supervisors for clients to fill out, checking on them and to see where they can help the most. TRACKtech is working to change the way individuals, including youth, are rehabilitated back into society in the hopes of reducing recidivism and providing necessary resources for people to be successful when integrating back into society.   

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Recidivism

A program aimed at decreasing juvenile recidivism and conviction of crimes was created a year ago in Southwest Virginia, according to an article published by the SWVA Today. The program is called Functional Family Therapy services and was created to intervene with youth before they get too involved in the criminal justice system. The program offers family-based treatment and diversion services by working with juveniles who suffer from substance use and behavioral or emotional issues. However, this program is working on trying to intervene in a different way than the usual standard. It requires that all of the child’s family participate in the program, as it makes therapy for the child more effective and for their siblings as well if they have any. This helps reduce the risk of their siblings becoming involved in crimes as well.

The program was finally able to launch after receiving the funding it needed. It focuses on youth in the age ranges of 11 to 18, who are referred by their probation officers. The therapy providers also travel to the children’s homes to eliminate and help with transportation issues. It also helps the families and children feel more comfortable and willing to participate as it is in a place where they feel safe and welcomed. “The 29th Judicial District already has a handful of youth enrolled in the program” and are hoping to expand the program even more. They feel it is working and helping reduce recidivism rates in juveniles. Also, it is helping keep their siblings out of jail by providing the services in home and looking to educate youth to keep them off the streets.

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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

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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