Electronic Monitoring Alleviates Prison Overcrowding & Generates Savings in Lycoming County

For decades, Lycoming County, along with the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has faced many challenges around incarceration and public safety. Lycoming County’s high recidivism rate, prison overcrowding, and over-exhausted correctional budget was threatening public safety and costing taxpayers. To combat the overpopulated prison, Lycoming County was in discussion to build a new county prison with a $40 million price tag.

The Approach

Instead of building the costly prison, the county implemented an electronic monitoring program, enabling the county’s court and agency to release individuals to community supervision. Electronic monitoring allows individuals to live their lives, support their families, and contribute to the community, all while meeting conditions of release. In turn, with the support of these innovative tools, fewer individuals are packing the prison system, which saves taxpayers dollars and helps enhance public safety.

Prison Diversion Cost Savings

Effective prison diversion strategies have the potential to generate significant correctional cost savings and enable counties to re-invest their resources towards other pressing initiatives. Using data provided by the Lycoming County Adult Probation Office, researchers analyzed the impact that the BI electronic monitoring program has on county funds. Since 2015, the Lycoming County Prison saved 73,496 days; at $70 per day, per inmate, that is more than $5.1 million in savings.

BI Incorporated Stays Ahead of the Game as LTE Technology Becomes the Future of Community Corrections

Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is a new buzzword in the technology world, and for good reason. LTE has changed the way the world connects–devices are faster, big data is more accessible, and service seems boundless. Technology is not slowing down, and neither are the software engineers at BI Incorporated.

Since 1987, electronic monitoring devices have utilized the major cellular systems, Global Systems for Mobiles (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). With the continual advancement of wireless technology, LTE soon replace GSM and CDMA systems. By 2022, the older wireless systems will be obsolete, making electronic monitoring devices without LTE technology practically inoperative.

Key Benefits for Community Corrections

LTE technology uses different radio interfaces to increase capacity and speed resulting in:

  • Higher bandwidth/data speed compared to 3G
  • Low latency/lower idle-to-active times
  • High spectrum efficiency, which provides a higher network capacity and improves cost efficiency
  • Backwards compatibility/futureproofing to increase flexibility and lifespan
  • An all-IP network allows for easier integration and cost-efficiency

While some companies continue to operate equipment using GSM or CDMA systems, BI has worked diligently to integrate LTE into its present and future products, including our GPS, alcohol, and RF solutions. Our partnership with Verizon provides a strategic advantage to the most modern and reliable cellular capabilities in the market. BI continues to lead the community corrections field in an era of rapid technological innovation, and we are committed to delivering reliable and relevant solutions to our state, city, and county partners.

BI LOC8® XT

This rugged and dependable GPS tracking device provides agencies with detailed information about a client’s movement in the community. Key features include Wi-Fi detection ability, LTE technology, and tamper detection capabilities.

BI SL3®

Monitoring for sobriety in discrete and convenient ways helps individuals remain compliant to conditions of release. BI SL3® is a sophisticated, handheld alcohol monitoring device that incorporates powerful technology to drive compliance and accountability.

BI HomeGuard® 20|20

In use for more than 30 years, radio frequency electronic monitoring is used worldwide. This latest innovation from BI takes RF monitoring to a new level, enhancing durability, reliability, and communication to support officers and clients.

Smartphone Monitoring App Technology & Administrative Solutions – Keeping Agencies and Clients Connected During COVID-19

Social-distancing protocols and stay-at-home orders have impacted the way the world functions. Internet services have seen rises in usage from 40% to 100% and video-conferencing services have seen a ten times increase in usage since the onset of COVID-19, demonstrating just how important it is for companies to stay at the forefront of new innovative technology.

What does this mean for community corrections? Not only has the pandemic prevented community supervision officers from meeting clients in person, but it has also increased caseloads as more individuals are being released on probation and parole. As cities, counties, and states continue to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic, BI Incorporated remains dedicated to providing agencies with quality smartphone monitoring technology and administrative support services to stay efficient and connected.

Smartphone Monitoring Apps

The issue paper released by the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) technology committee, “Leveraging the Power of Smartphone Applications to Enhance Community Supervision,” addresses the positive impact that smartphone applications have on the community supervision process. “Leveraging the power inherent in today’s smartphones, these applications offer a highly flexible tool designed to support a wide variety of supervision objectives depending on the needs of the case. For example, accountability objectives can be achieved through features such as location monitoring, remote reporting, or check-ins. Behavioral change objectives can be facilitated through instant communications with the officer, providing the client with timely access to resources such as programming, and therapeutic counseling via tele-presence.”

Monitoring apps provide a secure platform for communication, anytime, anywhere, BI SmartLINK® has been recognized by criminal justice professionals as a reliable way to supervise and support individuals as they live and work in the community. Amidst COVID-19, SmartLINK has helped agencies interact with clients through secure messaging and two-way video conferencing features. More than 26,000 video conferences were completed by numerous agencies over approximately a six-week period. Along with enhanced communication, SmartLINK is able to streamline and digitize supervision paperwork typically submitted in person. Clients have the ability to upload documents and photos, review officer appointed schedules through a shared calendar, and submit required paperwork. As remote and digital case management services remain in high-demand, SmartLINK can be used in conjunction with electronic monitoring or as an alternative.

Administrative Solutions

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International and Old Dominion University conducted a study on probation and parole officers’ time expenditure and found that about 52% of an officer’s work hours were spent on administrative case-related tasks. With growing caseloads, centralized data and streamlined case management are vital to keeping communities safe and officers efficient. BI Agency Assist® support services can relieve officers of up to 50% of their clerical or data processing workload, allowing them to spend more time on higher-risk clients. The 24×7 call center increases agency coverage, and our bilingual support center team help reduce and manage the large amount of data officers receive.

Smartphone Monitoring Benefits:

  • Saves officers time with fewer face-to-face meetings and phone calls
  • Records confirmation of client activities and location compliance
  • Provides reminders and tracks client acknowledgement of supervision tasks
  • Confirms client attendance at mandated appointments
  • Allows clients to submit documents electronically, reducing time spend on administrative work

Time-Saving Administrative Services:

  • Contact documentation services offer paperless, convenient data entry
  • Scheduling services track and verify client appointments, process change requests, and validate supporting documentation
  • Enhanced monitoring services handle alerts, send real-time officer notifications, and troubleshoot equipment
  • Client docs is a software module that manages important files and streamlines record-keeping
  • Self-reporting services automate client check-ins using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology

Journal Commentary Separates Electronic Monitoring from Incarceration

Joe Russo, a researcher and a longtime director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center at University of Denver, recently penned a commentary in The Journal of Offender Monitoring (December 2020) that debunks the concept that electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration.

In “Electronic Monitoring: Control Not Incarceration,” Russo says equating electronic monitoring to incarceration both minimizes the effect incarceration has on offenders and families as well curbs the use of electronic monitoring when it can be helpful and appropriate. “Electronic monitoring is not incarceration,” he argues.

In fact, Russo writes: “Without the option of a community-based alternative that includes electronic monitoring, courts, parole boards and other authorities will be more inclined to continue over-using detention and incarceration.”

Russo then highlights the advantages of electronic monitoring versus incarceration in key areas:

Medical Health: Jails and prisons are not healthy environments, more so during the pandemic, and electronic monitoring is an option many authorities have used effectively to transition offenders to community supervision while monitoring compliance to conditions of release.

Mental Health: Confinement is also detrimental to mental health, and electronic monitoring allows offenders to be in the community where these issues can be monitored and managed.

Violence: Electronic monitoring reduces exposure to violence more prevalent in prisons and jails than community life.

Substance Abuse: By releasing offenders to electronic monitoring, individuals managing substance abuse issues can better maintain treatment regimens.

Economics: When individuals are diverted to electronic monitoring, savings to jurisdictions are well documented.

Impact on Children: Allowing offenders to be released on electronic monitoring maintains critical family connections that help stabilize individuals and reduce criminal behavior.

Finally, Russo highlights that using electronic monitoring appropriately is more humane than incarceration, and that agencies using electronic monitoring should have clear policies in place “that are consistent with best practices.”

To read the complete commentary, visit https://civicresearchinstitute.com/jom.html.