Electronic Monitoring

     Electronic monitoring has emerged as one of the most popular forms of community
corrections in the United States today. Electronic monitoring began and/or was
first used in approximately 1984. Today, approximately 12,000- 15,000 offenders
or participants are being monitored on a daily basis. The electronic monitoring
equipment used today allows us to determine if a monitored participant is in
his/her required place at the proper time. When I speak of electronic monitoring
the first thing that comes to your mind is probably an ankle bracelet. Well,
today’s technology has called for a few new and interesting not to mention
easier forms of monitoring offenders and participants. (It is essential for me
to note that not all persons being monitored have been convicted of crimes.

Monitoring is also used as a condition of pre-trial release. In my research I
will focus on the guidelines of probation monitoring). Today, we have monitors
in the form of wristwatches, we also have monitors in the form of voice
verification through the offenders telephone, and there is also a system of
visual verification that assures that the participant is answering the phone.

There are even units that have drive-by options that allow a supervising officer
to sit outside of a building and tell whether or not an offender is inside,
where he/she is required to be. These forms are in addition to the ankle
bracelet. Over the years technology has also been able to "enhance battery
life and improve the bands worn by offenders by making them non-stretchable and
tamper-resistant. A new mobile unit allows supervising officers to check on
offenders and hold two-way conversations with them without ever having to leave
their vehicles (Papy 132)." In the wristwatch program the participant is
signaled through the device at various random times throughout the day. The
participant is then obligated to call a central monitoring station from a nearby
phone using a 1-800 number. The central monitoring station picks up the
participant’s location using caller ID. The participant is then supposed to
press and hold the face of the wristwatch to the phone. The device generates a
beeping code, which will identify the participant. The telephone call also is
able to detect whether or not the device has been tampered with, and if the
participant is in their correct, required locations. The officer programs the
number of random signals. In the voice verification system, the participant is
either called at their home at random or they are scheduled to make a call at
certain times. However, the system is computerized to pick up the
participant’s voice no matter what type of phone, or what type of condition
the phone is in. This system is 95% accurate and can easily tell the difference
between relatives. It can also make a positive identification when the
participant has a cold. In connection with the voice verification system there
is a visual verification option that allows the officer to make sure that the
participant is the person answering the phone. The supervising officer has three
main responsibilities: selecting participants for the program, installing
whatever device is necessary for the monitoring program (basically "hooking up
the offender"), and supervising the participants. "Officers are contacted
each time one of the following ‘key events’ occurs: unauthorized absences
from the residence; failure to return to the residence from a scheduled absence;
late arrivals; early departures from a residence; equipment malfunctions;
tampering with the monitoring equipment; loss of electrical power or telephone
service; location verification failure (where a participant moves the monitoring
equipment from the residence without permission); and when the monitoring
equipment misses a randomly scheduled call to the monitoring center (Altman,

Murray, Wooten 31)". These are all certain violations that set off and can
alert the officer of a participant foul up. When the officer is alerted of a
violation he/she calls the central monitoring station and finds out who is in
violation and does whatever is necessary to handle the problem. While electronic
monitoring is a growing trend in community corrections, two of the major
questions are is electronic monitoring cost effective? If so, which system is
the best and most secures? Unfortunately today in our society we have reached
some extremely crime-ridden times. Crime rates are soaring, and the corrections
system is running out of places and things to do with offenders. Prisons and
jails are being overcrowded. The number of people on probation in early 1998 was
well over 3.2 million. All of these functions are costing us money. Next to
protecting the community, and rehabilitating offenders we also want to find new
programs and ideas that will save us money. "...Also provides us with a
significant cost savings for the government. In fiscal year 1996 (according to
the Administrative office), if home confinement did not exist, more than 8,000
offenders would have been in prison or halfway houses and more than 5,000
defendants would have been detained in detention centers or halfway houses
(Altman, Murray, Wooten 32)". One of the main questions asked when dealing
with community corrections, and the electronic monitoring devices is are they
cost effective. Are they saving us money, or losing us money? Well, in 1996, the
cost of incarceration was about 42-61 million, depending on the level of
incarceration, and the cost of monitoring was 19 million. The total cost of
savings in that category was around 23-42 million. On the other side the cost of
detention was 2-41 million, depending on the type of detention facility, and the
cost of monitoring was around 12 million. The total cost of saving in this
particular category was 15-29 million. Now, when asked if electronic monitoring
is cost effective the total savings for the year of 1996 was 38-70 million.

These figures are all depending on the level of incarceration or the type of
detention facility we are dealing with when talking about saving. Different
facilities have their own daily rates. (Stats from chart in Altman, Murray, and

Wooten 32). By looking at the figures in this chart, it is easy to see that so
far electronic monitoring is saving money. Even though these figures are from

1996 the figure amount for savings should be higher today. I say this because;
as the number of offenders rises so should the number of those put on the
systems. In turn, saving even more dollars. Now that we have dealt with the
problem of cost-effectiveness. What system is the best? The electronic
monitoring systems have come a long way since the mid 80’s. They have evolved
into much more than just the ankle bracelets. Earlier I previously described to
you the a few types of monitors. In my opinion the best monitor is not always
the cheapest monitor. The best monitor is the one that will keep an offender out
of the prison system, and help to reintegrate an offender back into the
community. As well as keep tight surveillance on the offender and assure the
community that they are safe. The monitor that does this the best I feel is the
voice verification monitors. "Those system functions essentially place calls
to pretrial releasees at programmed intervals to remind them or instruct them to
do such things as report to the office, attend their next scheduled court
appearance, provide a urine specimen, or whatever other information officers
need to convey to defendants. These system functions can also be used to monitor
defendants’ home detention or curfew conditions of release (Cadigan 53)".

This monitoring system works in one of two ways: the offender either calls the
system at specified times, or the system will call the offender at various
specified times. Once the offender speaks into the phone the system can pick up
the proper voice at a 95% recognition rate. This system is able to differentiate
between family members, so that brothers, mothers, fathers, or sisters cannot
try to cover for defendants. When this program has been implemented into a home
there are certain phone features that must be cut off of the offenders phone.

Features such as three way calling, double line, call-forwarding. The offender
must show proof of this, by showing his phone bill to the supervising officer
every month. This system is purely tamper proof. This is why I feel that it is
the best way to go in choosing a monitor. Not only has electronic monitoring
emerged as one of the most popular forms of community corrections today. It is
also one of the most cost-effective programs in community corrections. We have
learned about electronic monitoring devices other than the ankle bracelet. We
have learned the dollar amount that electronic monitoring is saving our
government. I have also discussed with you the device that I feel provides the
community with the best safety assurance, and allows the offender to be treated
and reintegrated back into society. Electronic monitoring is a very important
part of community corrections today! The more offenders going through the system
the monitors we will have being used. Over the years as crime has risen so has
the technology of the electronic monitoring device. As crime increases so will
the technology for these devices. I feel very confident in the systems we use
today, in that they are protecting us (law-abiding citizens) and keeping a close
eye on them (criminal offenders).