May 27, 2011

GPS Privatization Planned To Free Parole Officers For Field Work

5-27-2011 California:

In California, convicted sex offenders and some gang members are fitted with GPS tracking devices when they get out of prison on parole. But that's a lot of little blips on a screen for parole agents to keep track of- too many, argues the state.

So they're asking for a private company to take-over some of the work.

In yearly operations, California Department of Corrections officers have made dozens of arrests at the State Fair. That’s some place with lots of kids, and lots of trouble for some convicts to get into.

So how did they know the parolees were there? GPS monitoring devices, strapped to he convict's ankles.

"When you have 24-7 screening of alerts… a parole agent can't stay up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A monitoring center can," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.

She says the Department is getting help, hiring the companies that provide the GPS technology to also screen the alerts. They will send only the high priority problems to parole officers.

"Some of these alerts can be triggered when the battery starts to get low or the GPS tracking device goes out of range... much like a cell phone, when you lose a signal," Thornton explained.

In fact, a recent Associated Press report shows that parole agents spend 44% of their time reviewing those GPS alerts. That compares to only 12% of their time out in the field.

Outsourcing that work will start with a pilot program this summer and if it's successful, the program will be expanded. Thornton says it will be something new for the GPS companies too- who've never played a roll in evaluating the seriousness of alerts.

There will be a new Department of Corrections unit created also- to oversee the private companies doing that sorting.

The pilot program itself won't cost anything, according to Thornton. But whether the State adopts this system permanently depends in part on how expensive it would be. ..Source.. by KTXL-TV

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