How Can Mobile App Monitoring Assist in Pretrial Services

How Can Mobile App Monitoring Assist in Pretrial Services?

What is Mobile App Monitoring?

Smartphone applications are a more recent innovation being used in community supervision technology as a way for officers and their clients to conveniently communicate, complete check-ins, and verify location digitally.

Pretrial Detention Numbers

Individuals may be detained if they cannot afford bail or if otherwise determined by a judge. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average length of pretrial detention is 135 days, though this may vary across states. Most, but not all, individuals awaiting trial are detained.

Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Reduce Risk & Enhance Accountability

Judges and agencies must assess community risk, facilitate court appearances, and monitor defendants throughout the adjudication process. They seek a continuum of response, including less restrictive options that enable individuals awaiting trial to work, attend church, school, and tend to their children and other responsibilities while still being placed on some form on community supervision. Even if released on bail or personal recognizance, there is still likely to be conditions of release. Electronic monitoring with a smartphone application offers a convenient way to keep clients on track for court dates, check-ins, and documents they may need to be compliant.

Location monitoring and other settings can be customized depending on the client. Mobile apps provide individuals awaiting trial with the tools they need to succeed in one, easy-to-use interface. Through two-way messaging, clients can communicate with their officers to ask questions or request schedule changes, and apps offer the ability for offices to send automatic reminders.

Alleviate Prison & Jail Overcrowding

Mobile app monitoring is the cost-effective solution to reduce prison and jail overcrowding. A large percentage of individuals in detention are awaiting trial for nonviolent crimes and have not yet been convicted. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, overcrowding causes medical problems for individuals in-custody and increases their stress. By diverting lower risk individuals who are awaiting trial to mobile monitoring, beds and services can be utilized for higher-risk individuals and valuable taxpayer dollars can be used more efficiently.

In some states where Zero Bail policies are being enacted, mobile app monitoring may be even more useful. In 2020, the Emergency Bail Policy set bail to $0 for misdemeanors and felonies in California to reduce prison overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yolo County kept the Zero Bail policy in place until 2021, after the statewide schedule ended. It was found that 420 out of the 595 (70.6%) individuals released on Zero Bail in Yolo County recidivated. An expanded study of a random sample of 100 arrested individuals who were released from jail on bail in 2018 or 2019, compared to a random sample of 100 arrested individuals who were released from jail on Zero Bail between April 19, 2020, and May 31, 2021 was completed February of 2023 and included these key findings: 

  • Individuals released on Zero Bail were rearrested for 163% more crimes than those released on bail.
  • Individuals released on Zero Bail committed new felonies 90% more often than those who posted bail.
  • Over an 18-month period, those who were released on Zero Bail had a 78% recidivism rate compared to 46% for those released on bail.

These findings demonstrate that release without accountability efforts in place is ineffective. Without any incentive to comply, individuals are more likely to commit new crimes and reenter the criminal justice system. With or without bail, electronic monitoring can provide an accountability tool to keep clients on track for compliance.

BI Incorporated supports agencies with electronic monitoring systems that are effective, flexible, and fair alternatives to jail. BI SmartLINK® is a secure app for sharing information and communication between officers and pretrial defendants, while also equipping individuals with accountability tools. BI Mobile®, a secure mobile device with SmartLINK pre-installed, alleviates challenges agencies and clients may face related to access to a device.

Learn more about our electronic monitoring mobile app solutions.

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