Digital Technologies Create Savings
Other benefits and efficiencies aimed for criminal justice system
- By Enrique Pavlioglou
- Feb 01, 2021
Digital technologies are transforming
all aspects of life
today, yet sectors such as
the criminal justice system
continue to be slow to adapt
and are failing to take advantage of a wealth
of innovations available at the moment.
With today’s criminal justice system
confronted by a myriad of challenges
though, including increasing budget and
resource constraints as well as complications
caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the
“this is how we’ve always done things here”
way of thinking will no longer cut it.
One area within the criminal justice
system where digital technologies can
be quickly and easily implemented to
deliver immediate impact is community
supervision programs. However, before
we discuss how to do this, we must first
get a sense of today’s landscape and the
challenges being created by traditional
With traditional monitoring methods
continuing to perform well for community
supervision programs, local and state
governments as well as other institutions
have not seen a strong need to explore new
innovative solutions previously.
The popular method for tracking
defendants has been and remains
electronic ankle monitoring, a solution
that was introduced to the industry nearly
four decades ago. When introduced, ankle
monitoring devices were an innovative
solution to in-person supervisory checkins.
Today though, the challenges they
create heavily outweigh their benefits.
Not only do ankle monitors carry a
stigma for defendants, they also can create
financial strain for individuals with fees
averaging out to $300 per month. These
costs, in addition to associated court fees
and other expenses, can add up quickly and
become detrimental to offenders that are
barely getting by on minimum wage. Local
community supervision programs also often
struggle with technical difficulties related to
ankle monitoring devices, such as signal loss,
chronically short battery life, and inaccurate
alerts and notifications, all of which create
further operational inefficiencies.
Additionally, many community supervision
programs still conduct scheduled and
random in-person check-ins. While these
meetings are an equally inefficient use of
time for both supervisors and defendants
in any circumstance, the pandemic has now
made them potentially unsafe to do for both
parties as well. Face-to-face meetings for rural
offenders are especially challenging too,
as these individuals are expected to forfeit
viable working hours to fulfill their legal and
financial obligations to the court or require
their supervisors to travel countless hours
back and forth for a single check-in.
There are better monitoring tools out
there. These tools are cheaper for offenders
and streamline the process for supervisors.
Unfortunately, lengthy procurement
processes for new technologies and the
overshadowing legacy processes and
technologies in place are holding back this
much-needed digital shift.
CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE
Today, there are digital innovations that
are improving operational efficiencies
and changing the community supervision
landscape for the better, such as cloudbased
remote monitoring software. With
a system like this in place, community
supervision programs can be more efficient,
cost-effective, and accommodating for
both supervisors and defendants.
For instance, with cloud-based
monitoring software much of the
community supervision process can be
done remotely through an easy-to-use
online platform or mobile app. In the
case of a remote monitoring app, the
system, once installed on a mobile phone,
allows civil servants to monitor and track
individuals using GPS, photographic
verification and electronic signatures. This
process can allow low-risk adult offenders
to easily let their bail bondsmen know
they have not left town or inform their
probation officer that they are complying
with their curfew schedules or committed
any other violations, without the costly
and inefficient in-person check-in process.
Remote check-ins using mobile apps
help civil servants that are already stretched
thin. The technology removes the need
for in-person meetings and can liberate
approximately 70% of a supervisor’s time,
thus allowing them to focus on higher risk
individuals. In addition, remote tracking
software reduces the amount of time defendants spend checking in each month. At an average of two
check-ins per month, offenders currently sacrifice 5 working
hours every month to satisfy their court-mandated check-ins,
resulting in an average of 220 working hours lost over the course
of their probation period.1 However, with a cloud-based mobile
app, check-ins can take just minutes.
Beyond just the time cost, remote monitoring software can
reduce the financial burden of community supervision programs
on defendants by nearly 94%, as the technology is significantly
more cost-effective than ankle monitors.
“Remote monitoring software has been an invaluable tool
for us, and it provides cost-saving benefits for our employees. If
it weren’t for this tracking technology, I would have had to hire
more personnel,” said Darcy Hasty, Director of Indigent Defense
and Pre-Trial Services for Medina County, Texas, which has
been using a cloud-based technology to streamline the check-in
process for the county’s Pre-Trial services and cut costs for both
the county and the defendants.
The benefits of these technologies are not just limited to
savings though, and by not using them the criminal justice system
is also missing out on a wealth of knowledge that advanced
systems can provide. For example, cloud-based monitoring
software can provide information about check-in reports, stored
GPS locations, and custom report schedules, which supervisors
and judges can use to not just determine if an offender is meeting
his or her court-mandated requirements but also to determine
broader behavior patterns and trends.
“These solutions allow us to use the tool as a curfew check,
which is huge with some of our judges who want to make sure
our defendants are home by certain hours. The software has also
been particularly beneficial during the pandemic, which allowed
me to rotate my staff safely and keep our office functioning, all
while honoring court orders,” added Hasty.
THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW
As mentioned before, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the
“this is how we’ve always done things here” way of thinking will
no longer cut it and that it is time for the criminal justice system
to begin adopting new technologies more aggressively.
The good news is that even though these solutions might seem
dramatic, they are not. As has been demonstrated by example
of remote monitoring, even a small implementation such as this
technology is already having a huge impact in
many areas of the country.
This article originally appeared in the January / February 2021 issue of Security Today.