Monday, January 6, 2014

NE - Should Nebraska step up its use of electronic ankle bracelets?

Original Article

No! GPS has flaws, like someone going into a building, bridge or mountains. Several examples can be found here.


By Matt Wynn

Ankle monitors, the telltale sign of a person who's been on the wrong side of the law, just might get a lot more visible as Nebraska looks for ways to turn out more prisoners out onto the street.

But while law enforcement officials and lawmakers hope the technology can keep better track of more convicts, Nebraska has a lot of wrinkles to iron out before expanding its use.

Some in law enforcement caution against increased reliance on the devices.

There are some things that are probably going to fall through the cracks, and they're going to fall to us,” said Jim Maguire, president of the deputies union for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

Two prospective bills in the Nebraska Legislature look to expand the use of the “electronic monitoring.”

One bill, being drafted by the Omaha Police Department and searching for a sponsor, would put monitoring bracelets on parolees convicted of violent gun crimes for up to six months. Another, sponsored by State Sen. Brad Ashford, would free up prison space by releasing offenders early — if they agree to wear the tracking units.

Both would represent a dramatic shift in how the state uses electronic monitoring.

As it stands, electronic monitoring is most common in Nebraska for parolees, those prisoners who followed an assigned plan behind bars and were released early.

Some 230 parolees were assigned to wear ankle bracelets as of late December, said Dawn Renee Smith, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Corrections. About one-fifth of parolees spend time on electronic monitoring, she said.

Sex offenders make up the largest group who are monitored electronically. They account for 42 percent of the currently tracked parolees. An additional 38 violent offenders are wearing the devices, as well.

Some criminals who are sentenced to probation rather than prison also are assigned to use the devices. In 2013, more than 500 adults and juveniles on probation were monitored, or about 2 percent of all probationers.

Relying more on the monitors raises concerns, Maguire said.

People cut the bracelets off all the time, he said. And expecting such monitoring to dissuade violent offenders would be an invitation for trouble.

If somebody has it in their mind that they're going to do something to somebody, what's an ankle bracelet going to stop?” he said.

Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez of the Omaha Police Department said ramping up ankle monitoring wouldn't be a panacea for violent crime.

But he said it could reduce the risk of criminals re-offending — or could give officers better information if they do re-offend, which could be particularly useful with gun crimes.

Tracking data could be coupled with other technology to help pinpoint whether a released prisoner was at a crime scene.

It's another resource, that extra layer of protection,” he said. “You have to explore that.”

Electronic monitoring is used across the country, and a number of studies have confirmed that it reduces the odds that criminals will re-offend.

A Florida study funded by the National Institute of Justice found that electronic monitoring reduced recidivism by 31 percent. The study concluded that the monitors were less successful for violent criminals.

A Pew Charitable Trust study on parole in New Jersey had similar results. Criminals freed without any oversight re-offended 40 percent of the time. Supervised offenders re-offended 25 percent of the time.

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