Massivedynamic.co
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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Public Safety

Biometric identification is becoming an increasingly favored technology method for companies to use when verifying or searching for the identity of a person. In a recent article published by Government Technology about biometric identification, massive gains in accuracy and lower costs allow facial recognition to serve as a reliable application for governments and other companies to use. The facial recognition market is growing rapidly, estimated to reach $7.76 billion in value globally. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hillsboro, Oregon, was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to use Amazon’s facial recognition software program at a cost of $7 per month. Using this program regularly has led to dozens of arrests for theft, violence and other crimes. 

However, as the technology becomes increasingly accurate, privacy advocates are worried about diminishing what little privacy people have left. Without proper checks and balances in place, the latest technology has the potential for abuse, intrusiveness and invasion of privacy. With this also comes the risk being raised that facial recognition technologies struggle with discerning people of color accurately, resulting in an inherent bias. Many cities are working towards keeping the use of facial recognition technology under control and being aware of privacy issues.

TRACKtech, LLC has incorporated biometric identification into our products to increase safety and verification of program members. The TRACKphone provides the supervisor with a choice of three options for biometric verification including a fingerprint, iris scan or voice recognition. Biometric verification is used to ensure that the program member is the one in possession of the phone and allows for supervisors to monitor where they are, as well as check in with them through secured verification. TRACKtech ensures that all data is secure and does not misuse biometric verification technology, in the hopes of still providing the program member with reassurance that they have privacy, even while under supervision. 

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Public Safety
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week takes place the week of April 14 – April 20, recognizing the dedicated men and women who are the first line of defense and comprise emergency response agencies. Bartlesville Police Department Dispatcher, Teri Roberts, is one of these people. She listens to the caller’s needs and types information into the computer system, which takes eight monitors to manage. She asks the caller questions about the type of call and their location, while maneuvering her mouse to one of the screens dedicated to the radio frequencies for 20 different agencies. Roberts quickly notifies the Fire Department and Ambulance of the address of the call and the details of the caller’s emergency. She takes pride in her work, and after completing the call she states, “It’s all in a day’s work, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Securely located in the Bartlesville Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the dispatch center has three different shifts, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 15 dispatchers contracted to handle all the 911 emergency calls across the entire county. Rick Silver, Special Assistant to the Chief of Police at Bartlesville Police Department, is responsible for the dispatch center. From the 1st of January to March 31st, Silver recalled that over 4,200 emergency calls and over 18,000 non-emergency calls to 911 had been answered by dispatchers. “I’ve always told everyone my whole career that being a cop was what I wanted to do. To me that was the easy thing. I would never be a dispatcher,” Silver said. “It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that job because it is very hectic sometimes. People don’t realize the volume of calls that come in there.”

Dispatchers aren’t just the first line of defense for the people calling in, but also for the officers who are handling these calls out in the field. A dispatcher must be a multi-tasker, someone who is able to gather information and provide it to the officers and responders in the field while remaining calm and professional during stressful and intense situations.

Terri Mcarty, who has been a dispatcher for 33 years, says she wouldn’t do anything else. “It’s just what we like to do – help the community, and it makes you feel good that you are able to help somebody in their time of need. We are behind the scenes, and no one really knows who you are, but it just makes you feel good to go home at the end of the day and know that you helped somebody.”

Jon Copeland, Undersheriff of Washington County believes that dispatchers are crucial to assisting local deputies. “They are the heroes behind the scenes, the unsung heroes. They are the ones taking the initial information and letting deputies, EMS, fire, and police officers know where they need to go. They gather quite a bit of information and check up on us when they are on a call.” He is so thankful for the calm and steady voice on the radio. “It’s priceless. We can’t thank our dispatchers enough.”
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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

The dilemma of jail overcrowding has been a constant and difficult issue for countless states in our country. The most common answer to overcrowding is to simply build a new jail, but this can be incredibly costly to taxpayers and ultimately does not fix the fundamental cause of overcrowding. The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council concluded that the best way to fix their issue of overcrowding was to lower the number of low risk offenders who are in their prisons. The council’s work has brought about reforms which in the last three years have produced promising results and caused many to reconsider their approach to criminal justice. Their efforts have reduced the jail population by an astonishing 25 percent.

In 2014, most of the jail’s inmates were there for relatively minor offenses such as trespassing, misdemeanor shoplifting, public intoxication, marijuana possession, or open container violations. The resources and space spent on these people with minor infractions was better reserved for more serious offenders. Instead of sending these minor offenders straight to jail, officers had begun writing citations instead. By 2017, the number of people imprisoned on a single charge involving one of these minor offenses decreased by 51 percent and the number of officials who issued citations instead of making arrests increased by 46 percent. This has made a huge difference in the amount of overcrowding in the Charleston County Jail and has kept those who committed these minor offenses from suffering the repercussions of having a criminal record.

Although these positive changes are outstanding, it is important to keep people culpable for breaking the law and never compromise public safety. These reforms are necessary if we are to make a positive difference in the overcrowding of jails and keep otherwise law-abiding citizens out of the criminal justice system. 

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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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