Corrections Technology-GPS-Officer Mobility-Driving Restrictions

Corrections Technology-GPS-Officer Mobility-Driving Restrictions

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio Show available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/12/corrections-technology-gps-officer-mobility-driving-restrictions/

Len Sipes: From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Joe Russo, Director of Corrections, Technology, Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, which is part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, talking about community corrections technology. Joe, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Joe Russo: Thank you Len, always great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Well it’s always a pleasure to be with you Joe because you’re one of the most popular programs that we have. Everybody is really interested in corrections technology, what it could be, what it really means to the rest of us. You’re on the cutting edge of it. So we have a variety of topics to talk about today. We’re talking about offender tracking and realistic expectations. We’re talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation agent mobility, virtual offices, the use of tablets, keeping our folks in the field and technology and driving restrictions. Those are the three topics. So why don’t you kick it off talking about GPS offender tracking, satellite tracking and realistic expectations.

Joe Russo: Absolutely. Yeah, I wanted to talk about this topic because, you know, over the last year or two there’s been a series of high profile cases across the country where offender’s tracked with GPS bracelets are committing horrific crimes. And this is very tragic and it’s set off in motion a number of investigations in California. There’s a state senator who has launched or asked the inspector general to investigate offender tracking. In New York state, a U.S. representative from New York has asked the government accountability office to investigate offender tracking, monitoring and after a heinous crime in that state. And this is all, you know, obviously appropriate scrutiny after such horrific crimes that have occurred. However, it really illustrates the importance of realistic expectations of the technology in managing those expectations with stakeholders in the public in general. When I think most of your audience understands the limitations of the technology, they’re well documented, there are inherent limitations to any technology, there are environments in which, you know, satellite tracking, GPS tracking just doesn’t work well. That’s a known. We know that these devices can be defeated, they can be cut, they can be jammed. Offenders can put aluminum foil on them and block signals or they can simply not power up their devices. So it’s, you know, fairly easy for a non-cooperative offender to get around this system. Again, these are well-known, well-documented limitations.

Len Sipes: But for the rest of us in the field, we’re fairly puzzled by the negative publicity because we understand the inherent limitations on GPS satellite tracking technology. We understand that it’s not full proof and we understand that just because the person has satellite tracking technology on doesn’t mean he can’t simply snip it off, doesn’t mean that he’ll stop committing crimes. And we’re sort of puzzled when we see the various negative stories coming out in the newspapers and TV stations because we’re saying to ourselves why doesn’t everybody else understand the limitations on this equipment. So I spoke to some reporters throughout the course of years and they said, well, you all in the community corrections fields are sort of overselling the promise of GPS. And I’m not quite sure that’s true. I mean, inherent within any technology, as you just said are limitations.

Joe Russo: That’s exactly right. I don’t know that community corrections agencies are necessarily overselling or vendors are overselling but there is a, you know, interesting kind of dynamic. Whenever an agency is looking for budgetary funds to implement a program, obviously they’re going to highlight the, you know, the positive parts of that technology and how that technology can benefit overall supervision. But as you alluded to, you know, the affects of any technology or any program are measured in the aggregate, you know, does the input, does the program or the treatment create a benefit to an aggregate population. Obviously, you know, they’re going to have individuals who are determined to continue their criminal ways. And regardless of whether it’s GPS monitoring or, you know, anger management training or any kind of high intensity supervision, it’s less of a reflection on the program as it is of the individual. So it’s, I think, you know, folks need to step back, understanding we’re dealing with a criminal element, understanding we’re dealing with, in community corrections, we’re not dealing with [PH 00:04:38.1] John Augustine’s’ Day, you know, or probationers or debtors or public drunkards.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: A lot of these folks are serious offenders.

Len Sipes: Yep.

Joe Russo: And so agencies across the country are doing their best to implement technology, to implement programs to achieve positive outcomes but there will be failures.

Len Sipes: The two things that come to mind is, number one, the research from a variety of sources does indicate that GPS/satellite tracking does reduce offending, does reduce technical violations, does reduce the amount of – or the numbers or the percentage of people being returned to the correctional system. But there is a fairly strong corrective incentive in terms of GPS satellite tracking done well, correct, per research?

Joe Russo: Absolutely. There is that and even, you know, if you take the most negative view on it. You know, in those cases where offenders are determined to continue their criminal acts, GPS has been, you know, instrumental in making these offenders accountable. GPS location data is able to match the crime, you know, incident locations and the folks who ultimately are accountable for their actions. And in many cases, you know, they probably would have committed those crimes with or without tracking.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: At least with tracking there’s an ability to hold these folks accountable.

Len Sipes: And we’ve been able to track down some fairly serious offenders through GPS tracking and so that is a huge plus. Number two, we train law enforcement, not just the metropolitan police department here in Washington, D.C., but we train the FBI, we train the secret service, we train a lot of law enforcement agencies in terms of the use of our GPS tracking device so they can see the offenders who they’re interested in, in real time. So there’s a lot of promise in terms of GPS satellite tracking but it is a huge drain on manpower. And I’m not quite sure people understand how difficult it is to keep – to watch all the tracking marks of an offender on a day-to-day basis and the fact that most of us in parole and probation are not 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. We’re basically Monday through Friday, 9-5. Now there are variations on that theme and there are some offenders who we do track in real time but those are problems. Take the first one. The fact that this is very – it involves a lot of intensive manpower, person power to keep track of all of the data that comes in.

Joe Russo: Absolutely and if there’s nothing else your listeners hear today is that the resource issues are paramount. Agencies need to be clear about why they’re tracking offenders, what purpose and what they hope to achieve and they need to dedicate the appropriate resources to accomplishing those goals. You know, far too many agencies compare the cost, the equipment cost of GPS to a day in jail and make cost-effective based decisions based on that. But the labor costs far exceed the equipment costs. And, you know, and that’s probably the biggest pitfall that agencies face. They don’t dedicate enough resources to maintaining programs, addressing violations, dealing with alerts and that’s where program integrity falls. And that’s where if a case goes really bad and an offender goes off and does something heinous that’s where the agency really has a difficult day explaining to the press why certain actions were not taken.

Len Sipes: Now we have here at the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency, we use our vendor to track 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but just because they’re tracked 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, doesn’t mean that we have personnel at the ready to respond. So that’s the case as it is in virtually every parole and probation agency in the country, correct?

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely, absolutely, even for agencies, police agencies that operate GPS programs. And you would think they theoretically are the best situated to respond to alerts and cuts. Even they can’t be everywhere at every time. So obviously probation and parole agencies, you know, have much less resources, are much less able to react in a timely manner. So, again, these are understood limitations in technology, these expectations need to be managed. I think better education needs to occur between agencies and the public and judges and the media, frankly, so that we understand what we’re dealing with.

Len Sipes: Now the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence there at the University of Denver, again, part of the National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center, you all came out with guidelines, rather technical guidelines, rather complete guidelines in terms of the application of GPS, correct?

Joe Russo: We’re developing a standard right now for the performance of offender tracking devices. But more recently we published a guideline for agencies to think about GPS devices and GPS information as potential evidence. We thought that too many agencies don’t see these devices in that light. So the goal was to educate them to start thinking more about how they use these devices. And how potential evidence might end up in a court room if, for example, an offender who’s tracked is accused of committing a crime.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm. Now, the other thing that we’re talking about is not necessarily using devices that we currently provide, which are anklets strapped around the person’s ankle. We’re talking about going to a cell phone based system.

Joe Russo: Well we see that in the industry, there are vendors now who are offering basically SmartPhones with GPS chips to offenders and they can be tethered or not tethered, you know, wirelessly, and basically tracking is occurring through the phone. So there’s no device strapped to an ankle in certain applications. And this seems like it might be a trend for the future and may lead to, you know, one day where the offender brings his own device to be supervised and can bring in their own SmartPhone and the officer can install tracking software and accomplish tracking that way. Now this is a little far out thinking but it certainly seems to be a direction.

Len Sipes: Well everybody has always said that we’re looking for the day where the tracking device is not the size of a cell phone strapped to the offender’s ankle but the size of, I don’t know, a pen. And that device will automatically take blood pressure readings, will automatically take readings as to whether or not the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And so is that still pie in the sky or are we moving towards something along those lines?

Joe Russo: You know what, in different areas there are certainly components of what you described that are being developed but as you envision it or as I’m interpreting how you envision it, it may be a chip, an RF chip that’s embedded in the offender and has the ability to –

Len Sipes: Well no, not in the offender himself, but the device that they’re wearing.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. I mean, that’s even easier to do. So yeah, as these technologies mature and are developed, you know, then we’ll definitely see that in the future. I mean, obviously right now we have devices that can track transdermal alcohol expiration from the body, that’s one device. We have devices that can track movement. There are certainly physiological devices, you know, that Fitbit movement is opening up a whole lot of doors in terms of using machines and computers to monitor physiological activity. So certainly, you know, blood pressure, respiration rates and we can match that information to where a location is. Or if a sex offender is near a school and his heart rate is pumping, you know, that obviously tells a supervision officer something. So yes, right now it’s all theoretical but there are pieces in place and they’re growing. And one day maybe we can put it all together.

Len Sipes: Well the technical podcast I listened to this week in tech, Leo Laporte, on a weekly basis, religious basis and they talk about this stuff. Not necessarily in terms of tracking people on criminal supervision but they talk about the Fitbits, they talk about other wearable devices, they talk about taking blood pressure, they talk about monitoring pulses, they’re talking about whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol in terms of safe driving. So that conversation is taking place not within the criminal justice system, that conversation is taking place in the tech industry in general.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. People are fascinated with understanding their own physiology, their sleep patterns, increasing performance. And you’re right, this is well established and growing. But you’re right, there are applications for offender management there that can be tapped into.

Len Sipes: Okay. Before we go to the break and start talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation, agent mobility, virtual offices, office tablets and technology regarding driving restrictions, one of the things that we wanted to talk about was analytic capabilities.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely. You know, in previous calls we’ve talked about the need for analytics to better analyze, understand and act upon all the data that GPS generates. And we talked about a couple of different initiatives that were going on across the country and I wanted listeners to know that since our last conversation one of the GPS providers has actually acquired a company that specializes in sophisticated analysis and interpretation of data. This company has a long track record working with intelligence agencies and defense agencies to make sense of big data. And recently they’ve been working with community corrections agencies to explore how their techniques might work with offender tracking data. This is very encouraging at least, you know, one company has taken a big step to provide their customers with this important capability and I think the trend will be that other, you know, other vendors will follow suit and provide similar support.

Len Sipes: What sort of things are we talking about tracking?

Joe Russo: Well, for example, link analysis, where offenders, who they are near, other tracked offenders, are there patterns that develop in terms of the locations that they tend to frequent, are they associating with other offenders? You know, can we establish other patterns of behavior based on other folks who are being tracked? So can we establish a drop point or a chop shop based on the time that offenders are spending in a particular location where there are patterns of movement.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: So the idea is to take all of that, you know, aggregate data that GPS provides and move from the inclusion zone, exclusion zone kind of scenario to really digging deep and establishing patterns of behavior and really supporting the officer. Letting the officer know what types of information might need to be acted on.

Len Sipes: So everything that we’re hearing in terms of big data as it applies to Google, big data as it applies to IBM, big data as it applies to Wal-Mart, that same application is coming to corrections.

Joe Russo: Very much so. Very much so.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: And GPS is one of the – kind of the easiest forays into this because we do acquire so much data in that area.

Len Sipes: All right Joe, we’re halfway through the program. Let me introduce you before we’re getting on to the other topics. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Joe Russo, he is the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org. Okay Joe, let’s go into the other topics that we are talking about. And I find this to be fascinating, so many companies now are moving away their own vehicles, moving, I’m sorry, moving away from offices and putting people out in vehicles all the time and it sounds like that’s what we’re talking about with parole and probation agent correctional officer mobility. Talking about virtual offices, talking about tablets, talking about giving that individual all the tech they need to stay in the field.

Joe Russo: Yeah, exactly, and this is something that’s been discussed, you know, for some time now. There’s been a movement against getting away from the ivory tower of probation and parole work, getting away from central office and headquarters, making the offender report downtown typically to the officer.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: But in recent years, and in part prompted by economic issues, but a lot of agencies are looking at ways to get the officers in the field where the offenders are, where they live and work and where they exist. Georgia, perhaps, is the leader in this in terms of, you know, actually shutting down offices and requiring parole officers to maintain virtual offices out of their cars. And the agencies provide the officers with everything they need, SmartPhones and tablets and laptops so there’s really to come to a physical office. And in this way the early reports are that they’re seeing success because they’re able to make more contact with the offenders, more sustained contact in their environment and the outcome so far have been very positive.

Len Sipes: Well I remember years ago when I worked for the United States Senate, one of the folks there gave me a laptop computer and then a couple weeks later said, you know, is the use of the enhanced technology of a laptop computer changing the way that you work? And I’m going, well, no, I mean, just because you gave me a laptop doesn’t mean that I’m any more proficient. I mean, I report to the office every day and there is a desktop. How exactly is the laptop going to assist me beyond office hours? I mean, I understand beyond office hours, having a direct link to the computers but, you know, so sometimes I get the sense that we provide technology, laptops, tablets, cell phones, mobile fingerprint readers, again, sort of like with GPS, unrealistic expectations. So I would imagine this parole and probation agent, this correctional officer is well versed in terms of what mobile technology can do for them.

Joe Russo: Well that would be a necessary, you know, prerequisite obviously, you know, officers need to be somewhat tech savvy, be open and willing to learn perhaps new tools for them, you know, not everyone grew up with this technology certainly. So I’m sure there’s a learning curve for some officers. But certainly there needs to be openness. But it sounds like, you know, the agency made a decision from the top down that this is what they want and this is what they want to see. They don’t want to spend their resources paying rental space throughout this, they want to spend their resources where they can make the most direct and positive impact on outcomes and that’s the direction that they took. And, you know, just looking at it objectively, not having to come and go from an office increases efficiencies over and above the, you know, the cost savings for office space. Folks need to be in the field, officers need to be in the field where the action is. And that’s just common sense and I think that, you know, more and more agencies are coming to that realization and acting on it.

Len Sipes: Is mobile fingerprint readers involved in this, drug testing equipment, I mean, how far are they taking it?

Joe Russo: Well I think that that might be part and parcel. I’m not aware, but the primary objective is you take the office and you put it in the car.

Len Sipes: Okay. And that makes a tremendous amount of sense to me because why be in the office when you can be out in the field especially if you’re doing surprise visits. And I understand that a lot of the visits need to be scheduled because, you know, the mother or the father, the family member, the sponsor, volunteers can be there and work with the parole and probation agent and work with the offender, so I understand that. But the idea of a spontaneous visit to that person’s place of work or where that person lives or where that person socializes, especially in the evenings, makes an awful lot of sense to me.

Joe Russo: Well particularly with, you know, as GPS grows in terms of tracking offenders or if, you know, one day offenders are bringing their own device and we’re tracking offenders by their phones and, you know, phones are pretty ubiquitous at this point and it’s only going to grow more so. You know, perhaps we have the capability in the future to go where the offender is and not go necessarily to the house or the workplace.

Len Sipes: That would be interesting. So, in other words, GPS tracking, you know exactly where that person is and suddenly, voilà, you pop up and say hi.

Joe Russo: Well and that’s part of the larger, you know, internet of things, movement that’s going on in society is that, you know, we have all these sensors that are out there. We have all these machines that can be connected to the internet. They all can be networked and provide useful information. So, you know, if a GPS tracking device is linked to an officer’s GPS tracking or a GPS system in their car, which tells them what route to take to get to the offender’s location, if these systems link up and communicate and tell the officer, you know, don’t bother making that home visit because the offender is not home.

Len Sipes: Interesting, very, very interesting. I mean, so we’re talking about really moving community corrections well into the 21st century and really bringing a sense of the internet of things, of big data, of mobility, of tracking, of, you know, as some people have hoped for, the mobile ability to say, hey, this person is now using drugs, this person is now using alcohol. I mean, it does bring us into contact with the people on supervision to a much more powerful degree than we have in the past, which, you know, when I was in the state of Maryland any sense of intensive contact or intensive supervision was two face-to-face contacts a month. Now we’re talking about almost continuous contacts if we choose to do it and if we have the software through big data to analyze what’s going on.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely and within that capability obviously comes challenges, right. We have somewhat privacy issues although those are mitigated because of the status of our offenders but you have the information overload issues and we’re already seeing that with just GPS technology and the need to manage that data. So obviously, you know, the more sensors we try to tap into, the more connection of machines we try to leverage, the natural result is we have exponentially more data to sift through and figure out what’s important and what’s actionable and what’s not.

Len Sipes: And that’s why I’m hoping whoever’s developing all of this develops the algorithms to allow us to make sense of the data because there’s no way an individual parole and probation agent, I would imagine the average caseload in this country is somewhere in the ballpark of 150 individuals per parole and probation agent, if you had half of those under these enhanced sensors, so you’re talking about, what, 75 individuals where data is coming in on a day-to-day basis. That would easily overwhelm that human being, that parole and probation agent, that correctional officer. That person could never keep up with all that data. So somehow, some way, somebody’s got to figure out a way of making sense of that data.

Joe Russo: Well exactly, there’s no question about it. And then the worst possible scenario is you’re overloaded with so much of this data and we don’t know which of this data is important and which is not, that the officer doesn’t have time to do the direct contact interventions that we know are so important.

Len Sipes: Exactly. So we have to plow through the invention of new data and we have to plow through the invention of new algorithms to make sense of all that data.

Joe Russo: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay. Technology and driving restrictions, we have say in the final five minutes of the program. Once again, everybody has hoped for that piece of technology to the point where the car simply would not start for those on drinking and driving programs, that the car simply would not start. Now there are cars out there with locking devices that they do blow into the tube and if they blow over a certain level that car will not start. So that exists now, right?

Joe Russo: That exists now and that works, you know, quite well. One of the biggest ways or the most common ways for an offender to work around that type of a scenario is to simply install Interlock on a car and meet the judge’s requirement and then drive another car.

Len Sipes: Yeah, drive another car.

Joe Russo: So that – it’s pretty simple to get around. One of the Interlock providers has recently bought a patent on technology that’s been around for a while but is only now being seriously evaluated for viability. And this technology basically looks to identify driving behaviors. And so what we’re looking at are ankle bracelets that can detect the movements that are consistent with driving a car. So essentially there’s a unique physiological signature that’s associated with driving. So if you think about the foot movements that you do without thinking, your acceleration, your braking, sensors can determine your speed. And all of these things put together, you know, you mentioned algorithms just before, these algorithms are designed to identify those signals that are consistent with a driving episode and then alert officers that this is occurring.

Len Sipes: Sort of like a black box for automobiles or a black box for human beings?

Joe Russo: Well it would be for human beings because, again, with the Interlock system we don’t want to monitor the car. We want to monitor the offender. So these as envisioned, these would be ankle device, ankle bracelets that detect the movements of the foot.
Len Sipes: Oh, that’s interesting. So all of that is not necessarily biologically based, it is foot based.

Joe Russo: Yeah, it’s more mechanically based.

Len Sipes: Oh.

Joe Russo: It’s based on the physiology of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So if you think about it, there are very few actions or movements that you would make that are consistent with driving that are not related to driving. So you’re not necessarily pressing down, for example, on an accelerator.

Len Sipes: That is interesting. That is really interesting. So the bottom line is that, you know, right now we have breathalyzers, right now we have blood tests in terms of substance abuse, but you’re actually talking about something that actually measures the movement of the foot. I would love to be in court to establish that – to establish the legal basis of that. I would imagine that’s going to be a fight from the very beginning. But if you could introduce that it would be revolutionary.

Joe Russo: Well exactly. I mean, any new technology obviously faces those legal hurdles. And certainly that would just be one piece of evidence against an offender and our standards of evidence are much lower than a new criminal case. But if you have indication that this offender is driving when he shouldn’t be driving or he’s driving a car that’s not – that doesn’t have Interlock installed in it, then that provides an investigative lead for officers to go and find other information. So it wouldn’t necessarily be the nail in the coffin but it would be one piece of evidence.

Len Sipes: Being it’s not physiologically based, that could also apply to drugs as well.

Joe Russo: You know, the same thinking and theory. Another example that comes to mind is folks have developed handwriting analysis as a method of determining impairment. And so what they’ve looked at is, you know, the way that you sign your name physiologically is altered if you’re impaired. Now it may look exactly like your signature sober but the movements, the signals from your brain to your hand create very distinct and minute differences in the signature. So if we capture a computerized signature of an impaired person, there’s research that suggests that you can tell if someone is impaired simply by the way they’re writing their name versus how the name looks.

Len Sipes: I’ll tell you Joe, it’s always a fascinating conversation when you and I talk about corrections technology. That’s one of the reasons why this program is one of the more popular programs that we do. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking today to Joe Russo, the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, www.justnet.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is talking DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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Technology in Corrections-Corrections Technology Center of Excellence-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/05/technology-in-corrections-corrections-technology-center-of-excellence-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s show – do parole and probation caseloads have an impact on offender recidivism in crime. To discuss this topic, we have two principles. We have Sarah Cooke-Jalbert. She is an associate at Abt Associates. She is a sociologist and public policy analysis with research interest in Criminal Justice Program Evaluation, Michael Kane. The second guest is a Senior Associate with Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice. He’s been working in the Criminal Justice field for the past eight years. They wrote a really interesting piece of research on the fact that caseload size done right seems to reduce recidivism and when I say ‘recidivism,’ I remind most people that that indeed involves reduced crime. So let me, for the next 15 seconds, read the beginning of it and we’ll have an interview with Sarah and Michael.

“A Criminal Justice researcher has studied caseload size to determine whether smaller caseloads improve probation outcomes. With exceptions, the findings have been disappointing. Reduced probation officer caseloads have not reduced criminal recidivism for high-risk probationers and have increased revocation rates.

One explanation is that officers with reduced caseloads do not change their supervision practices when caseloads are reduced. This raised the question – would reduce caseloads improve supervision outcomes for medium to high-risk offenders in a probation agency that trains its officers to apply a balance of control and rehabilitative measures”

To Sarah and Michael, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Thank you.

Michael Kane:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Okay, that was a ridiculously long introduction, but in setting the stage, it’s really difficult, but Sarah, also give me a sense. You work for Abt Associates Abt. In my 42 years in the Criminal Justice system, Abt Associates always seems to have been there and producing some of the better known research throughout this country and throughout the criminological community. So tell me a little bit about Abt Associates.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Sure. We’re based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and we are probably one of the oldest public policy analysis companies and we have, as you mentioned, been doing a number of projects for the Department of Justice and various other government agencies. Mostly in the [INDISCERNIBLE] program evaluation. We also do global international technical assistance and evaluation for various governments and government agencies domestically.

Len Sipes:  This research is funded by the Office of Justice Programs of the US Department of Justice. Michaels Kane, give me a sense as to the Crime and Justice Institute at the Community Resources for Justice.

Michael Kane:  Sure, Community Resources for Justice is a nonprofit operating in Boston. Our larger organization also operates halfway houses, both federal and state, and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Crime and Justice Institute is a division of CRJ and we work to improve the effectiveness of criminal justice systems nationwide. We provide nonpartisan consulting, policy analysis, evaluation services and technical assistance to improve public safety in a lot of jurisdictions working directly with corrections and community corrections agencies.

Len Sipes:  The website for Abt Associates – www.abtassociates.com. The website for the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice is www.cjinstitute.org. Alright, so both to Sarah and Michael, let’s begin talking about this. In the research that you did – again, funded by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice – it took a look at parole and probation or, in this case, rather probation caseload size and we said in the introduction that caseload size really does not seem to matter in terms of the research in the past. In fact, reducing caseload size, making it the number that the parole and probation officer or the probation officer in this case has to supervise and to assist, lowering that number in the past seemed to increase the rate of recidivism, but basically what you guys said was, “Well, if you guys lowered the ratio, if you made the caseload smaller, if you trained this parole and probation agent or probation agent in evidence-based practices, if you gave him the top skills, the top knowledge that we had today,” I wonder what would happen.  Am I summarizing the research correctly?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  I think that’s right. I think one of the reasons that the National Institute of Justice felt that this was important to revisit is that some of the best evaluations in Criminal Justice were done on supervision intensive probation. These were large, random assignment studies that produced some pretty irrefutable outcomes, but as you said, decreasing the caseload size for probationers who are supervised intensively did not seem to improve outcomes and, in fact, worsened outcomes in a lot of ways. The takeaway from that research was both that these were probationers, not in the traditional sense. These were people who were diverted from jails and prisons and put onto probation and supervised in the community very intensively, but also, there were a couple of exceptions to those core findings in a couple of agencies. They did combine the sorts of things that we associate today with evidence-based practices with these reduced caseloads and in those couple of places, they had improved outcomes. So there’s really a foundation for revisiting this now that evidence-based practices have become so widespread in probation agencies across the country.

Len Sipes: So it’s just not a matter of trail them and jail them. It’s just not a matter of enforcement. It has to be combined with services if that person has any chances at all of not going back to prison and in saying that, there were two jurisdictions that you studied out of the three where not only were there reductions. There were significant reductions in terms of the overall rate of recidivism. I think in the Oklahoma City area there was about a 30% reduction in recidivism. In Polk County, Iowa, in one case, was up to 40% in some categories. So that’s significant and that’s what immediately caught my eye and said that I wanted to interview Sarah and Michael today because , ordinarily, when you get successful outcomes for reentry programs, if you will, they generally range in the 10-15% range. These are significant – 30% for Oklahoma, 39% for some categories in Polk County. Those are significant reductions.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Correct and I want to just clarify one thing in that we’re talking about reduction in risk of recidivism, which is a fine point to make, but I think important because it’s a probabilistic kind of thing rather than an absolute these people stopped reoffending. So there’s a little bit of a difference and that’s due to the nature of the study design.

Michael Kane:  It’s not a 30% absolute reduction in recidivism, but compared to the control commission…

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  What it would have been otherwise.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael Kane:  It is a 30% reduction. Yeah, that’s important to point out.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but I mean do you…

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  You’re right. These are significant. You’re right.

Len Sipes:  That’s my question. My premise is considering the low percentage rates in so many other programs that I’ve encountered, this seems to be doing significantly better than previous reentry-related research programs. Am I right?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Yes, but I do want to qualify that a little bit because reentry programs are generally dealing with offenders who are coming out of jail and prison and because of that, are at higher risk for recidivism. We’re talking here about probationers who, at least for this particular offense or case, they have not been incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you are talking about medium to high-risk probationers.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Correct, but probationers in general, overall, are a little bit lower risk than say parolees.

Len Sipes:  True, but it’s not unusual for them to have prior incarcerations in their backgrounds.

Michael Kane:  Right, the population don’t overlap.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Correct and higher risk probationers often do have a more extensive criminal history. So, yes, we are talking about who are people who are at high risk for recidivism, but not quite as high-risk as a parolee.

Len Sipes:  Michael Kane, we talk about evidence-based practices within the confines of this study. What are we talking about?

Michael Kane:  Sure, within the confines of this study, we’re talking about three major things. The things that we look for in the sites that we chose were sites that had implemented a third-generations risk and needs assessment and used that risk assessments to target based on risk.

Len Sipes:  Figure out who the offender is.

Michael Kane:  Right, figure out who the offender is and concentrate probation services on offenders that are medium and high-risk. The second thing we looked for were sites that do some kind of case planning based on need. The third-generations need assessments, they typically generate a list of criminogenic needs and these sites base case plan on what needs are determined by that. The third thing that we’re looking for is sites that train in and practice motivational enhancement techniques. In some cases, that might be like motivational interviewing. So those were the three things that we looked for in terms of [INDISCERNIBLE].

Len Sipes:  So it’s basically– they implemented a risk needs assessment. They figured out who this person truly was. They engaged a case management process based upon that risk and needs assessment, which is basically saying, “You’re low-risk. You really don’t need these services nearly as badly as somebody with a high score in terms of antisocial personality or violent tendencies. So we’re going to figure out who gets what based upon their scores in terms of the risk and needs instrument and training the officers there on how to motivate the people on their caseloads to do better.”

Michael Kane:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That’s the heart and soul of it.

Michael Kane:  Yeah and so I think it’s important to know that we’re not saying that that’s all evidence-based practices are or trying to condense them, but we had to make some decisions about what kind of things we were looking for in sites and those are the three things that really stood out to us. They’re also things that are easier as researchers to measure. We can see what the risk and need assessment that they’re doing is and we can see whether or not they target individuals based on their risk level and whether or not they target based on need. They can program evidence that they did the training around motivational enhancement techniques. So those are kind of things that we can confirm. There are plenty of other components of evidence-based practices that are more difficult to confirm.

Len Sipes:  Right, but the bottom line of this is that they went through all of this – the case management, the risk and needs assessment, the motivational interviewing – to get them involved in programs. You guys didn’t measure the programs. You measured those things that I mentioned, but all of this is predicated on getting them involved in the programs that were necessary even though you didn’t measure that part of it.

Michael Kane:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Because that part of it had some methodological difficulties.

Michael Kane:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Alright, what are we talking about in terms of caseload, Sarah? I mean if this whole discussion and research is predicated on reduced caseloads, what do we mean by reduced caseloads?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Well, I think we mean a couple of things. One is a relative measure. As you know, caseloads fluctuate throughout the country and so agencies have very high caseloads depending on their resource levels and some have more medium size caseloads. I would say almost nobody thinks that their caseloads are too low, but for Oklahoma City, when we introduced the reduce caseload and randomly assigned officers to either the reduced caseload or the regular caseload, during our study, their caseload was about 106 probationers per officer on the regular caseload and 54 on the reduced caseload.

Len Sipes:  Okay, basically on probation agent to 54 offenders.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Right, for the reduced caseload.

Len Sipes:  Okay and Polk County?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  In Polk County, it was a little more complicated to determine, but we’re looking at a little bit higher-risk offenders in Polk County and so we were looking at their intensive supervision programming and their caseload was roughly, over the study period, 30 probationers per officer.

Len Sipes:  Okay, about 30:1.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Yeah and about 50 in the comparison officers.

Len Sipes:  We should establish again for anybody listening who doesn’t have the context to understand the discussion in terms of caseload numbers, I have personally witnessed in the state of Maryland, which I was Director of Public Relations for the Maryland Department of Safety for 14 years, caseloads of 130:1. These are 130 real cases. If you counted the inactive cases, it was much higher than that. I’ve known jurisdictions throughout this country that have had 200 offenders on their caseloads. These are regular caseloads. They aren’t administrative caseloads or interstate compact caseloads, but regular caseloads exceeding 200 per parole and probation agent. So first of all, do we agree with my assessment as to the comparison numbers?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Yes.

Michael Kane:  Yeah, I mean I’ve heard 180. Yeah, I’ve heard all kinds of, what I consider to be, fairly high numbers. So, yes, I think that that’s a good range. It really just differs across jurisdictions.

Len Sipes:  It’s amazing as to how any parole and probation agent could ever possibly be effective with those numbers, but we’re halfway through the program. I’m going to reintroduce the two of you and then we’re going to get into – what I consider – the fun part of the program. It took me 15 minutes to set up an understanding of the program and now we’re going to get into the policy implications. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re talking to Sarah Cooke-Jalbert. She is an associate at Abt Associates. She is a sociologist and Public Policy Analysis with research interest in Criminal Justice program evaluation, www.abtassociates.com. Michael Kane is a Senior Associate with Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice, www.cjinsitute.org. Okay, Michael or Sarah, either one of you come in. So to the aid to the mayor, to the aid to the governor, to the aid to the congressional person, to the aid to the parole and probation assistant director, to the different people listening to this program right now, what are the principle policy takeaways from this research that if we lower caseloads and have them do the right thing, we can reduce the number of people coming back to the Criminal Justice system significantly and do I have that correct?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Yes and I want to repeat something that some of the many people of advisors for this project emphasized to me a number of times, which is you can’t just do one. You can’t just introduce these techniques associated with evidence-based practices and keep caseloads the same size because officers don’t have time, as you mentioned. They don’t have time to learn all of these new techniques and still supervise their active caseloads, but you also can’t just reduce caseloads without giving the officers the tools to really make changes and how they supervise probationers. So I think that one major takeaway is that it’s really important to do both and our study kind of highlights the importance of that. We can’t tell from our study which particular components of evidence-based practices that are the most cost-effective or the most beneficial, but what we can say is that this the context in which you should reduce caseloads in order to be most effective for recidivism and probationer outcomes in general.

Len Sipes:  Michael, do you have anything to add to that?

Michael Kane:  No, I mean I think Sarah has it right. We know that both of these things have to go along together. I think that that is really a key finding here. I think another thing that is maybe less associated with recidivism reduction is that from our discussions with officers that were on a reduced caseload size, they really did reflect that they felt they were better able to use the techniques that they learned, that those evidence-based practices that they have learned, they were able to spend more quality time with the offender and help them to explore their issues that they were really able to do a better job in terms of making referrals. Those things that it seems like probation and parole are turning towards, it just seems like in the cases we were able to speak with the officers that had the reduced caseload that they felt like that extra time really enabled them to employ the techniques that they learned.

Len Sipes:  Well, it does take time because I’ve seen both in Maryland and the nine years of being with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which is a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. When I was out with one of the – what we call – community supervision officers, what most jurisdictions call parole and probation agents, encountering a woman who basically she was thrown out of her place where she lived. It was violent. It was nasty. Knives were pulled and words were exchanged and she had to escape with her child. I mean the complexity that so many offenders bring to the parole and probation arena requires time. It just required time. If you’ve got somebody who is on their fifth positive for marijuana, yet they’re doing everything else okay, but yet they’re hanging out on the street corner. They’re being a little too loud, the fifth positive for marijuana, it takes time to intervene in that individual’s life and get them into the right treatment modality. These are time-consuming activities.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  They’re time-consuming and also things officers feel responsible for. In many cases, they are responsible in terms of job performance and in some cases they’re responsible in terms of liability for the people that they’re supervising and I think one of the important implications or sort of a finding is that in Oklahoma City, the officers who were on the reduced caseloads stayed in their jobs for the length of this study. The officers who had the double caseload, the regular caseload of 106 offenders, they left. They took other assignments. They left the agency. They got burned out pretty fast and they called us and told us that. They said, “Look, I’m really sorry to be leaving the study, but I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t feel like I can do my job anymore because there are too many people that I’m supervising.”

Len Sipes:  That applies to most parole and probation agents in the country. That’s my sense of it.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Exactly, exactly.

Len Sipes:  I’m talking about anywhere between 80% and 90%.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Right and this study does not cover what the overall retention rate of probation officers in local jurisdictions are, but I think you’ll find that their staff turnover is pretty high. At least, I know anecdotally it is and if you think about the costs associated with hiring new people, training new people to do what’s a pretty responsible job in a community, think of all the money you’ll save if your officers were happy and they stayed and they felt like they were being effective at their job. So I think it’s larger than just finding improved recidivism. I think it’s also a question of is the community safe because I have experienced officers who have a professional commitment that they feel that they can live up to.

Len Sipes:  If you’re talking 30% ballpark and another figure and I know it’s no really as simple as I’m making it out to be, but I’m just going to try to make it simple – 30% in Oklahoma in one category, 39% in Polk County. I mean you’re not talking about a lot of people not returning to the Criminal Justice system. You’re talking about a lot of people not going to jail. You’re talking about a lot of people not going back to prison. You’re talking about 700,000 individuals released from state and federal prisons every year. Now, if we could do 30-39% reduction of people not returning to the Criminal Justice system out of those 700,000, you’re talking about saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  That’s right and I think we all know that the level of incarceration in this country is unsustainable physically and that people are going to be released. The question is how well are they going to be supervised in the community post-release, but also how well are they going to be supervised in a community before they get to jail and prison. I think it’s a really important point to make that when people fail on probation and people recidivate while they’re on probation, they often are going into incarcerations whereas they were remaining in the community and everything. The potential, anyway, to be productive, to be employed, to really both contribute to the community and to improve their own lives and those opportunities are greatly diminished once people fail on probation and end up incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Right. Is there a secret sauce, either one of you, in this in terms of your own guts and I know that the metrological community, the research community hates this question, but it’s what practitioners are interested in. it’s all those people I talked about – the aids to the mayors and governors. They’re sitting there and saying, “Okay, I’m listening to this.” What do you think, Sarah and Michael, is the secret sauce the key ingredient that really prompted reductions in recidivism beyond the fact of reduced caseloads? Is it getting them involved, figuring to who the person really is and getting the right person involved in the right treatment modality? I’ll start off with that.

Michael Kane:  I mean…can I take a stab at this?

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Sure, of course.

Michael Kane:  I think that it’s really the application of the risk and need principles, for me, that those individuals that are the highest risk based on an objective assessment –  in this case, the third-generation risk and need assessment – that those individuals receive more probation services than low-risk individuals and that we objectively assess what their needs are. One size fits all does not work and I think we know that in probation and parole. We can’t say that everyone should receive substance abuse treatment because while a lot of individuals may have substance abuse issues, that’s not the case for everyone. In some cases, we can be giving them services they don’t need, don’t reduce the recidivism rate and so I think the current climate economically in this country where in governmental budgets we’re making tough decisions, what we need to do is make smarter decisions about who we’re giving what. I think that that’s really at the core of implementing evidence-based practices in probation and parole agencies. We have to use the information that we have – in this case, risk and need assessment – and make decisions about resource allocation based on that so that we’re getting the most for our dollars. I think that’s relates directly to this caseload study because we know that if we supervise individuals on a lower caseload and use these techniques, we’re going to get better outcomes. So it is a tradeoff, certainly. There’s certainly a tradeoff in what we’re able to do with those lower-risk cases, but I think that’s really the takeaway for me.

Len Sipes:  I do want to be fair to the research and the listener community. There was another jurisdiction involved, another state involved, but they did not fully implement the evidence-based practices, so they didn’t have the reductions that you had in Oklahoma and Polk County, correct?

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Well, yeah and I think something important to note about that jurisdiction is that they, in fact, were one of the earliest adopters of evidence-based practices and they did a really good job when they implemented it in the 90s, but they had a series of fiscal crises and were not able to maintain the continuous feedback loop that’s necessary to keep programming like this going and operating well. In fact, during the period of time that we had data for the study, it didn’t appear that a lot of these elements of evidence-based practices were fully implemented, but afterwards, towards the end of the study, they kind of doubled-down on their efforts to do some training and to improve their programming. Who know? Today, those study results could be really different.

Len Sipes:  Could be dramatically different, right.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Right, it highlights the need to not just put something in place and say, “Okay, we’ve got this. We should be good.” It really needs to be a continued effort over a long period of time.

Len Sipes:  Got it. Okay, we have one minute left and the question to either one of you is evidence-based practices reduced caseloads do have a way of reducing crime, reducing people coming back into the Criminal Justice system. It’s unfortunate that a lot of states simply are so cash-strapped for money that they have a hard time doing what is, obviously, in everybody’s best interest.

Sarah Cooke-Jalbert:  Yeah, when you have incarceration, that’s a fixed cost. You need to maintain your prisons and your jails and probation is not such a fixed cost, so I think in my opinion – this isn’t a fact proven by the study – I think probation is a little bit easier to reduce money for than it is for, say, incarceration, but in a perfect world, I think policymakers could see that investing in probation really pays off when you compare those costs to the costs of incarceration.

Len Sipes:  Sarah, you have the final word. Our guests today have been Sarah Cooke-Jalbert. She, again, is an associate with Abt Associates. She is a sociologist and public policy analyst with research interest and Criminal Justice program evaluation – www.Abtassociates.com. Michael Kane is a Senior Associate with the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice. Again, that website there is www.cjinstitute.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. One again, we really appreciate all the interaction. We appreciate your emails, telephone calls. We appreciate the fact that you agree and disagree with some of the observations of our programs. We really like it when you come up with suggestions for new programs and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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GPS Monitoring of Criminal Offenders-Florida State University-DC Public Safety Radio

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/gps-monitoring-of-criminal-offenders-florida-state-university-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on GPS global positioning systems or electronic monitoring. We have Bill Bales on from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. They just recently completed a study of 5,000 offenders in terms of the impacts of electronic monitoring and global positioning systems, and some of those results were pretty good. We also have Carlton Butler, a program administrator for GPS for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve been doing GPS monitoring since 2003, so the whole idea, ladies and gentlemen, is to take a look at electronic monitoring, global positioning system monitoring, finding out whether or not it works to reduce recidivism. According to the Florida State University study, it does. And with that introduction, Bill Bales and Carlton Butler, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Butler:  Thank you, Len.

Bill Bales:  Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, the first question’s gonna go to you. Now this is an impressive study. We’re talking about 5,000 offenders were part of the study, and then you do represent one of the premier research organizations in the United States, the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. So the thing that I find amazing when I read your report, is that reduce risk of failure by 31 per cent. You’ve reduced – the program, GPS program, electronic monitoring reduces absconding, it reduces revocations, it reduces new crimes. One of the really interesting things that I found is that it’s used as an alternative to prison in about a third of all cases. And considering how states are really struggling with their correctional budgets, I think all of that is a pretty impressive set of findings. So Bill, can you give me a sense as to the larger study and what it really means?

Bill Bales:  Certainly. Yeah, the study involved—and I think this is very important—it involved medium and high-risk felony offenders in Florida. And Florida currently has almost 3,000 people on electronic monitoring. Almost all of those are Global Positioning System cases, and we did a very, what I believe is a sophisticated study of complicated matching of offenders who were placed on GPS versus similar offenders not placed on GPS, and then tracked them. So essentially, we have what we believe is a very equivalent control and experimental group, and the findings are very robust in the sense that just over 30 percent reduction in the likelihood of failure for the same type of offender on EM as non-EM. So that – it’s a finding that again, is very unequivocal from an empirical standpoint, and we believe is very sound from a research perspective. And like you said, Leonard, we also found that about a third of these offenders on electronic monitoring would have been in prison if not for electronic monitoring. And we also found somewhat surprising is that when you look at the effect of EM on outcomes, it’s fairly similar across different offender types in terms of younger versus older, male versus female. Across offense types, we found very similar results, except for among violent offenders the effect was not quite as great, but it was still a significant reduction in new crimes and absconding and violations. So it’s not as though Global Positioning Systems are only useful and effective for certain types of offenders, it’s pretty much across the board. So that was a very positive effect.

Len Sipes:  Now the findings of the research are significant, because all of us read criminological research as it pertains to reducing recidivism, reducing offending, reducing new crimes.

Bill Bales:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And ordinarily, those results, if they are positive, range in the 10 to 20 percent. The outer limits of a lot of the programs that are used around the country are about 20 percent. I mean, you’ve reduced the risk of failure by 31 percent. That makes your study one of the most significant research findings in criminology regarding managing people on community supervision, correct?

Bill Bales:  That is correct, yes. You’re exactly right. There’s a lot of the empirical research in criminology, if we find effects of various types of programs and interventions, they tend to be fairly marginal effects, if any. So yes, this is a very strong finding. And I will also mention that this project was funded by the National Institute of Justice, and the initial report went through a very rigorous peer review process. So these are findings that have been sanctioned and approved by, you know, other experts outside of certainly our college here.

Len Sipes:  Right, you’re a part of the Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice funds research on the basis of – under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice. So generally speaking, whatever research they fund is peer reviewed and methodologically correct.

Bill Bales:  Right. Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct. Yes.

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we’ve been doing – Carlton Butler, program administrator for our program here in Washington DC under the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency–we’ve been doing GPS since 2003, correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. We have been.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now when one of the things that I have found is that there’s just a wide array of evidence, there’s a wide array of stories in terms of the success of GPS. One that comes to mind simply in terms of apprehending an individual, we found that was a person that was involved in a series of sex crimes against young girls. And the picture was put out, and one of our community supervision officers, known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, recognized the face, looked at the GPS tracking system, was able to tie him in to exactly the locations and times that these crimes were committed, worked with the metropolitan police department, and arrested him. So GPS not only has a deterrent value, it has an apprehension value.

Carlton Butler:  Yes it does. Here in DC, Len, we have a partnership program with all our law enforcement partners. We call it the Crimes and Correlation Program, and in that program we offer limited access to our law enforcement partners, and they use crime data to help resolve crimes in the neighborhood. And under that particular case was one of those instances where the Crimes and Correlation Program worked very well.

Len Sipes:  And again, I think the point needs to be made is that law enforcement has access to our GPS tracking data. So not only do we, within the agency, keep track of individuals under supervision, law enforcement has access to that tracking data directly. They can see on any given day, if they have a suspect, where he’s been and where he is.

Carlton Butler:  That is correct, but they also use it for some extended purposes as well. In the District of Columbia, unfortunately there is some issues with gang interaction.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And they use the program to set up what we call global zones throughout the city, to help track who’s actually entering those zones, to be able to match individuals up who might be involved in gang activity, and/or new criminal activities. So they kind of use it to the extent where they do use it for tracking new crimes. But they also use it for crime prevention as well.

Len Sipes:  Bill, I’m gonna go back to you. Now your research shows a reduction in absconding, a reduction in revocations, of reduction in new crimes. Once again, I mean these are just extraordinary findings. It is just – GPS seems to be certainly something that’s gonna be used in the future. You also estimate that five billion offenders are electronic monitoring or GPS somewhere in the United States, correct?

Bill Bales:  I believe that’s the figure. I don’t recall it right off the top of my head –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Bales:  – to be honest with you. Yes, I know that it’s – certainly it’s expanding as, you know, correctional and preventative type of tool that’s available to various states throughout the country. And my sense is that it will be a method used more and more in the future because of its effectiveness, and the fact that it’s anywhere from six to seven times cheaper than sending someone to state prison or federal prison.

Len Sipes:  And we all agree that states are suffering. I’m not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of incarceration, I’ll leave that to others to decide, but we do know that states throughout the United States, virtually all of them, they’ve got to reduce the budgets of state agencies across the board. What I’ve read in my reading of newspaper articles and media reports, the budget cuts have been the prominent point of concern in the media. The budget difficulties with state agencies and local agencies, we have laying off police officers, closing down prisons, reducing the amount of people in the state attorney’s office and public defenders offices, and the states are saying, “Hey, we have absolutely no choice but to do this, because we’ve got to operate within the confines of the budgets that are given us.” So what this seems to say to me is that GPS is a viable alternative to use as those states try to figure out how to protect public safety, and at the same time, how to manage their own budget. That seems to me that GPS is certainly going to be part of that mix.

Bill Bales:  Yes. I would certainly agree with you 100 percent. There’s no question. Every state in the country is under dire, you know, financial straits at the moment, and Corrections, at least in Florida, the current budget is about 2.5 billion a year.  And it’s almost 10 percent of the state budget, and most of that is in the area of prisons. So certainly to the extent that you can reduce the prison population by even a percent or two, you can make a huge dent in the state budget when we have big deficits.

Len Sipes:  And out of pure curiosity, Bill, one of the things, when I read this study and it came out through the Department of Justice mailing list, I guess I’m a bit surprised that mainstream media has not picked up on this, that other organizations have not picked up on this, that again, the significance of these findings are I guess somewhat short of astounding. Are you getting a lot of coverage for the research?

Bill Bales:  Well, yeah, we’ve gotten numerous enquiries from just really a host of entities. Several states have contacted us that are considering either starting or expanding their GPS programs. And so, legislative bodies have contacted us, governor’s offices. Yeah, we’ve received quite a bit of attention because of the policy implications and the possible cost savings of this technology, which in the scheme of things is relatively new as a correctional strategy. So obviously we’d want more attention, but hopefully others will build on this research to the extent that researchers continue to find positive outcomes of this technology. My sense is it will get more and more attention from policy makers.

Len Sipes:  I guess my observation is that I’m personally surprised it’s not on the front page of USA Today. To me, after all of my years in criminal justice and criminology, to me this is one of the prominent, most significant studies out there. But one of the questions I want to put to Carlton, and Bill, you can chime in if you like, but let’s give Carlton the first crack at this, is that we’re not saying that this is a panacea. I mean, offenders cut these devices off all the time. They have to be recharged. You lose the GPS signal if you go inside of a building. There are ways, and we’re not to discuss specifically what they are, but offenders do try to defeat GPS devices. So this is certainly not a panacea. It’s certainly not foolproof, and it takes a tremendous amount of administration. You suddenly have parole and probation agents—in our case, community supervision officers—with a ton of data that they have to sift through. So this is not as easy as simply slapping on a GPS anklet on that person. Carlton, you wanna take a shot at all that?

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree this program is not a panacea. It doesn’t replace the supervision officer with their supervision duties on a particular offender. I would say, however, I think the technology has improved a great deal over the last at least three years, and I think that within the next year or so, we will probably see some more advancement to the equipment. What I mean by that is that obviously there are offenders who will attempt to circumvent the system, and because we know this exists, the GPS practitioners are working very hard with vendors to make sure that their devices are updated to be able to kind of help with those kinds of situations. One of the things that I know is prevalent most now in this industry is efforts to shield the device in efforts to jam the device.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And I do know that that is on the forefront of the vendors, manufacturers, to make sure that their device has the ability to detect those type of things. And I would also like to say too, there’s a national committee that was conformed by the National Institution of Justice, and it’s made up of 35 members. Out of that group, it’s probably, I would say, about 25 or 27 practitioners on that. In fact, Mr. [PH] Sanifield, who is the administrator, and I’m sure Bill worked with in Florida, is a member of that committee. And in that committee, we’re doing something unlike what has been done in the past, and that is we’re writing national standards for GPS. And the reason why we’re doing that, because as Bill said earlier in one of his statements, we see the technology or need for the technology to be increasing. And because of that, most practitioners right now who are trying to start up programs, don’t have a whole lot of information unless they reach out to one of their – someone that already has done. So, we hope that these standards will help individuals who want to develop or enhance their GPS program, because there will be a lot of data shared in these standards.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me introduce our guests—Bill Bales from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site for the Florida State University Department of Criminology is www.fsu.edu/departments/#criminology. I’m gonna give that out several times throughout the course of the program. Carlton Butler is a program administrator for my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are the parole and probation agency here for Washington DC. We’re a federal agency, www.csosa.gov. www.csosa.gov. We just redid our fact sheet on GPS, which is gonna be on the main page of our web site, so if anybody’s interested in what it is that we do here.  Bill, okay; back to you. You’ve heard Carlton say that there’s a need for national standards, and the committee that he’s working with is there. There’s a need for national standards on GPS. Do you agree?

Bill Bales:  Yes, I think that makes total sense. It is like, as Leonard knows—I mean, as you know and as Carlton knows—it’s a fairly sophisticated technology. But based on our research–and part of that involved actually going out throughout the state of Florida and interviewing those probation officers and administrators, and also offenders—we found that they were well trained, and a lot of that had to do with the vendor themselves, that were very much involved with the community corrections folks that used this technology. And I think that was extremely advantageous, that they have a very close working relationship, and they have mutual goals in mind in terms of, you know, having this GPS system work properly. And the other thing that we witnessed, which was very positive, was there’s continuous efforts to improve not just the technology itself, but just the process of implementing and using this technology to keep offenders from violating. And so I think that’s a critical component of this, is the type of relationships and partnerships that the vendors and the correctional organization has. And one thing—and I’ll plug this just very quickly—the Department of Corrections did in Florida is they determined that so many of the quote “violations” that occurred while people were on GPS, were very very minor instances; like you mentioned, where the GPS device or signal was lost. So they worked with the vendor and implemented a monitoring center that the vendor maintains. And so all the alerts that occur go directly to the vendor, their monitoring center, and 99 percent of them, they can handle and clear without an incident. But the supervising officer is aware of those, but they don’t have to respond to them instantly. So, that’s been a tremendous assistance to the officers in terms of the time involved in working with their GPS case load. So, I think there are a lot of – there are numerous things, initiatives that can be used and expanded as this, you know, capability moves forward.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, that’s one of the things that you advocated and implemented here, is to have the vendor basically take care of all that minor stuff so the community supervision officers can focus on the big part of the violation.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, we did, Len. And also, one of the things that I read in Bill’s report, and that was one of the things that one of the probationary officer’s stated; they would have liked the opportunity to work with the EM program, actually in the unit prior to be given case loads of offenders on EM. I think that’s significant, because one, it gives them the training skill that they need; and two, it helps them to understand what some of the alerts that they actually receive, because oftentimes they get so many alerts and it’s so overwhelming to them, because there’s so much data for them to filter through. This is one of the reasons why we elected to go to the monitoring center, so that we would have someone that was a little more trained and a little more skilled to farm through that data first, before that data would be generated to the probationary officer, so they would know what to do with it beyond that point.

Len Sipes:  I remember talking to a reporter from Massachusetts who basically was a little upset with the system in Massachusetts–and that’s another story for another time–but basically talking about GPS as being over-sold and over-promised. And my sense was that well, how can you possibly over-sell or over-promise GPS? The offender can just snip it off and walk away from the unit. There are no guarantees on GPS, but this is why I was so excited about Bill Bales study, because it basically says, “Yeah, there are endless problems with GPS, there are endless complications, it’s hard to administer, it throws just an unbelievable amount of information.” Remember, the average parole and probation agent in this country sees that offender on a twice a month basis for two 15-minute interviews in an office. That’s what ordinarily happens throughout the United States. Now, you’re getting a ton of data, flow of data, every single day on every single offender who’s on GPS. That becomes difficult to deal with. But let me go back to what I originally said, and Bill, we’ll start with you. I mean, again, this is not a panacea, this is not – nobody should be selling this as something that’s going to quote/unquote “solve supervision problems”.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct, and officers told us that numerous times, that GPS is a tool. But you can never replace the responsibilities and efforts and the things that officers do to keep offenders from violating. And so while pretty much ever officer we talked to thought that GPS was a very effective tool at their disposal, you still have to have that one-on-one contact between the officer and the offender and the, you know, unannounced visits to their homes and their places of employment, and so forth and so on. So, yeah, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is just one tool that appears to be extremely effective. But we can’t lose sight of the incredible value that these officers bring to the table in terms of dealing with, you know, especially very serious offenders, many of whom, at least in Florida, 75 percent are sex offenders. And so, we can’t lose sight of the incredible work the officers do in this regard.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, you have essentially said the same thing, that in terms of the individual officers, it’s – you’ve gotta continue working hard supervising your offenders in person. You’ve gotta work with them, you’ve gotta get them involved in treatment programs, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re working, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re following the conditions of their supervision. The GPS system is simply nothing more than a tool.

Carlton Butler:  I agree, that it is simply a tool, and that is it’s data, as you said, it’s a lot of data that you have to absorb and try to dissect. But that’s all that it is, is data. That one-on-one contact with the offender tends to give the supervision officer a whole other realm of information that the GPS device will never be able to provide. What the GPS device pretty much provides is locations and maps of where the offender would actually frequent. But in terms of – and it might give them some information on new collateral contacts where they may have not known where the offender was going, of certain places he was going.

Len Sipes:  Or, if sex offenders are hanging out at playgrounds.

Carlton Butler:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And we also use this as a curfew. We can restrict them to their house, we can restrict them to their block, we can restrict them to a certain part of the city. And we can, as they comply with the methods of supervision, we can ease up on GPS supervision. We can give them more freedom and more flexibility to reward them for complying with the terms of their supervision.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, that’s true, and these are the types of things we’re able to do here in DC, that’s been very effective in my use of GPS.

Len Sipes:  Okay, gentlemen, we have four minutes left in the program, and I need 30 seconds to close, so that’s three-and-a-half minutes. Bill, where do we go with GPS? With your research, it seems to indicate that this has a major impact not only on state budgets, but it has a major impact or potential for reducing crime, for reducing problems under supervision. Where do we go to from here?

Bill Bales:  Well, I think certainly we need to continue to do the research. I mean, our research was but strictly in one state, and it was a population of medium and high risk felony offenders, so as you all know, GPS has been expanding to local jails and other types of correctional facilities. So I think that’s one area. I think the other area is in terms of the application of GPS to various types of offenders, and also the level of discretion that probation officers and administrators have in the use of GPS, because currently, at least in Florida, that’s all determined by the judge. And from what we observed in talking to people, was that something that the states and locals should consider is giving more discretion to the probation offices in terms of the application of GPS, in terms of when an offender needs to be on it, when they need to be off of it; and because they work with the offenders on a consistent basis, and they know when an offender may be going south, and when this tool could possibly be applied to prevent that from getting worse.

Len Sipes:  So more jurisdiction, more authority at the local level to make those decisions in the field based upon conditions and not necessarily what the judge has to say or what the parole commission has to say, to give that flexibility and freedom to the people in the field to make those decisions.

Bill Bales:  Right, yeah. There’s been laws, like the Jessica Lunsford law in Florida where it ties the judge’s hands as to who gets put on GPS. But as I know Carlton knows, every case is different, and what tool we need to bring to the table to, you know, reduce the likelihood of failure, is variable across different types of offenders, different situations. So I think the states, the policy makers, real need to look at this in a very objective way and say, “Okay, this tool seems to be incredibly effective. How can we apply it in a more reasonable, objective and effective manner to the right population at the right points in time of their supervision?”

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we only have about a minute left. That’s basically what you’ve said as well.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, it is.

Len Sipes:  That really, it really cannot be a hard and fast rule. It can’t be a hard and fast application that the community supervision officer/parole and probation agent needs to be involved in this, and really needs to make decisions in terms of when to apply it, when to take them off, how long to keep them on.

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree with everything that Bill has said. I do know that however with the Jessica law, there is a loophole in it that might present a problem. One is that from the time the individual comes off of probation and have life in GPS, there’s nobody to really supervise them after they come off probation or supervision.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  So hopefully they can fix that part of the law, because that’s been a challenge to the industry.

Len Sipes:  Alright, Carlton, I’m gonna give you the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We’ve been talking to Bill Bales, Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site is www.fsu.edu/departments/#criminology. Also being with us today, or also on our air is Carlton Butler, program administrator for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. The program administrator for the GPS program, www.csosa.gov. The research that I’ve been talking about today it’s called “A Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Electronic Monitoring”. Ladies and gentlemen, we do want to thank you for your letters, for your phone calls, for your e-mails, for suggestions in terms of what we can do to improve the show. Comments and criticisms are always welcome, and I do want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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