A R E P ORT BY F R E E D OM F OU N DAT ION

ELECTRONIC HOME MONITORING
ARE CRIMINALS LEFT UNWATCHED?

Brought to you by:

SCOTT ROBERTS CITIZEN ACTION NETWORK DIRECTOR
2403 Pacific Ave. SE Olympia, WA 98501 | 360.956.3482 SRoberts@myFreedomFoundation.org | myFreedomFoundation.com

A R E P ORT BY F R E E D OM F OU N DAT ION

ELECTRONIC HOME MONITORING
ARE CRIMINALS LEFT UNWATCHED?
Criminal justice is a core function of state and local government. Citizens have a reasonable expectation that a person convicted of a serious crime, if not incarcerated, will at least be monitored. That is the promise of “electronic home monitoring,” yet that promise is not always being kept. Many governments have found it increasingly difficult to fund jails and prisons, leading to overcrowded facilities and contentious budget debates. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) reports the statewide average daily jail population. Their figures show that, as a percentage of total capacity, the jail population was on the rise from 1997 (101.2%) through 2001 (116.4%) 1. As a consequence, governments are using “alternatives to jail programs” as a relief valve. Convicted criminals can find their way back into communities using a variety of alternative programs including: reporting to jail during the day, electronic monitoring, work release, work crews and community service. Although electronic home monitoring may be a useful tool for governments in solving their jail overcrowding problems, it does not necessarily keep the public safe. In the AP Impact story “Some ankle bracelet alarms go unchecked,” published July 18, 2012, David Caruso and Nicholas Riccardi 2 chronicle cases where defendants perpetrated criminal acts while on electronic monitoring: Agents tracking child-porn suspect David Renz then missed 46 alerts in nine weeks, including one generated when he removed his bracelet in March. He then raped a 10-year-old girl and killed her mother. Renz pleaded guilty to those charges July 17. Corrections officials in Orange County, Fla., were so inundated with alerts that they halted all real-time notifications except when people tried to remove their bracelets. That allowed Bessman Okafor, awaiting trial for a home invasion, to violate his curfew 53 times in a single month without any action being taken. During one of those outings last September, prosecutors say, Okafor shot three people, killing a 19-year-old man who was to testify against him. In Colorado--where the state’s 212 parole officers handle an average of 15,000 alerts a month-one officer took five days to check on the whereabouts of a paroled white supremacist after getting an alert that he had tampered with his bracelet. By the time officers issued an arrest warrant, the man had killed two people, authorities say, including the head of the state’s Department of Correction and Nathan Leon, a computer technician and pizza delivery driver.

1. WASPC statewide jail statistics 1997-2001, www.waspc.org/index.php?c=Jail%20Statistics%202001 2. AP Impact: Some ankle bracelet alarms go unchecked, bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-impact-some-anklebracelet-alarms-go-unchecked

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THESE SENSATIONAL STORIES ARE NOT ISOLATED IN FARAWAY STATES. THEY ARE ALSO OCCURRING IN WASHINGTON.
On February 22, 2013, the body of Alycia Nipp, a 13-year-old girl was found in a field in Clark County. She was killed by Darrin Sanford, a convicted sex offender released into the community under the watchful eye of the Washington State Department of Corrections--and was wearing a GPS tracking device at the time of the murder 3. One of the most notorious examples of an offender committing a crime days after cutting off a monitor happened near Tacoma. On November 29, 2009, Maurice Clemmons walked into a coffee shop in Lakewood, a suburb of Tacoma, where he shot and killed 4 off-duty police officers execution-style. 4 days earlier, he cut off the ankle bracelet issued by Jail Sucks, his bail-bond company. Jail Sucks had been receiving repeated alerts. An employee of Jail Sucks called Clemmons to verify his whereabouts and spoke to Clemons, “and they believed at the time things were OK.” 4

One problem with electronic monitoring is the overwhelming volume of alerts that the devices create. The alerts can become white noise, and determining appropriate responses to each alert takes a highlyskilled administrator. Law enforcement officials agree the highest priority should be a “strap tamper” alert--the kind that can indicate a device has been cut off. Law enforcement will generally respond by sending a deputy to ensure the criminal hasn’t fled and to inspect the equipment. Perhaps the most serious unanswered question about electronic home monitoring programs is the effectiveness of the private companies who operate many of them, often with little or no oversight by judges or law enforcement.

Electronic monitoring is fraught with problems, and for each headline-grabbing story there are countless opportunities for criminals to perpetrate petty crimes that--under the right circumstances--are invisible not only to the public, but also to law enforcement. In 2007, Paul Murphy, a former Whatcom County Detective, stumbled upon an unscrupulous practice called “time off the clock” while interviewing a theft suspect. “Time off the clock” is when private home monitoring administrators allow criminals to violate the court-ordered terms of home monitoring, possibly in return for some kind of compensation. Murph was told that because these criminals don’t always have cash, the trade could be for petty crimes. Murphy investigated the suspect’s claims

and found them to be true. Not all private home monitoring providers engaged in the “time off the clock” practices, but, as Murphy said, “Without a doubt, some of the private administrators (located in Whatcom county) engaged in this practice.” Murphy said that as his investigation proceeded, he was unable to identify a law that these private monitoring companies had violated. There are no laws that govern how private administrators responded to alerts. There were no performance contracts between these private companies and the local government, nor were there monitoring or reporting instructions from the courts involved. Murphy could not even determine how the private monitoring companies had become approved county vendors.

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3. Sex offender kills teen while under GPS monitoring, police say, www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/03/12/sex. offender.gps/ 4. Deputies ran check on Clemmons hours before 4 officers slain, reports show, seattletimes.com/html/ localnews/2014155225_clemmons08m.html

All this was startling to Murphy, not just as a law enforcement officer, but as a citizen. Courts were ordering defendants to use electronic home monitoring, but turning them over to private monitoring companies with no performance requirements or other stipulations. That situation creates a multitude of problems--and opportunities for corruption. Perhaps most disturbing is that criminals who are “off the clock” or otherwise not being actively monitored can use home monitoring as an alibi for crimes. The Freedom Foundation surveyed all 39 Washington counties regarding their use of electronic home monitoring as an alternative to jail. We received conflicting answers that exposed confusion about how the programs are used. The State Department of Corrections does monitor the most high-risk offenders, but many other offenders are in county-level electronic home monitoring programs. We asked counties whether they use private companies to administer the programs. The responses were mixed: some only use county employees, some only use private companies, and some use both county employees and private companies. If a county used private companies to administer electronic monitoring, we asked two more questions:

1) DO THEY HAVE A PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT WITH THE VENDOR? 2) HOW WAS THE VENDOR APPROVED BY THE COUNTY?
The answers we received were guesses at best. We contacted one of the largest vendors of jail diversion services and electronic home monitoring. We asked if they have contracts with the local governments to whom they provided services. In most cases, they do not.

A R E P ORT BY F R E E D OM FOU N DAT ION

ELECTRONIC HOME MONITORING
ARE CRIMINALS LEFT UNWATCHED?

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FORTUNATELY, THERE ARE POLICY CHANGES THAT WOULD BE EASY TO IMPLEMENT TO PROVIDE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY WHILE IMPROVING PUBLIC SAFETY.
HERE ARE OUR POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS: SEND EHM ALERTS TO THE GOVERNING AGENCY
In the internet age, there is no reason to rely on a private vendor to retransmit alerts to law enforcement. Private monitoring systems should provide reports directly to law enforcement in real time. This could also provide a way to audit private monitoring companies.

ENTER THE EHM ALERT HISTORY INTO THE CRIMINAL RECORD
The electronic home monitoring alerts record and action log should be made part of the public record and available for public scrutiny.

REQUIRE PERFORMANCE CONTRACT WITH PENALTIES FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT
Governments should require written contracts with private vendors, stipulating performance requirements and enforcing penalties if they do not perform as agreed.

CREATE STATE HOME MONITORING STANDARDS
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs should create model standards for electronic home monitoring.

COMPETITION AND INCENTIVES
Policymakers at the state and local level should use marketplace competition to improve electronic home monitoring programs. This would include setting clear and consistent standards for vendors and then holding vendors accountable for their results.

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Other resources: www.mrsc.org/subjects/pubsafe/ps-jails.aspx apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.94A.680

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2403 Pacific Ave. SE Olympia, WA 98501 | 360.956.3482 info@myFreedomFoundation.org | myFreedomFoundation.com

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