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Tracking the event horizon
By Ann Coppola, News Reporter
Published: 06/23/2008

Techcity Offender tracking, sex offender Internet monitoring, risk assessment instruments, and drug and alcohol tests were just a few of the technologies on display at last week’s 9th Annual Innovative Technologies for Community Corrections conference. The conference, sponsored by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center's Rocky Mountain Regional Center and held in Denver, Colorado, spotlighted the latest innovations in community corrections technology and featured supervision tools not yet out on the market.

The three-day event attracted more than 350 people from Canada, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and 44 U.S. states. Professionals from all areas of community corrections, including probation, parole, pretrial, treatment, and work release programs, came to network, workshop, and view the technological wares from 30 different exhibitors.

One of the new technologies introduced was a hybrid form of offender tracking that combines the global positioning system (GPS) with a cellular communications infrastructure to locate offenders while they are either indoors and outside.

“Tracking and trying to monitor offenders who are indoors or inside big buildings is a challenge for all agencies,” says attendee Dan Stone, who oversees the electronic monitoring program for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Adult Parole Operations.

Conference exhibitor The Rosum Corporation presented its own hybrid technology that integrates television-based positioning with GPS to track offenders. The goal of partnering TV signals with GPS is to improve offender tracking, especially in dense, urban locations.

“GPS doesn’t work once you get inside a building, but adding these new components would get over that, allowing you to reliably track offenders indoors and in urban locations,” Stone adds.

The conference also featured satellite drug detection and reporting, a new system being piloted in Hawaii, Montana and Washington. It is geared to help probation officers connect with offenders in faraway areas who remotely report via kiosks. This technology allows for non-invasive, real-time, pass/fail drug screening, and includes full video and audio interactivity between officer and offender.

Even the conference host had technology to debut. NLECTC’s free software tool Field Search can scan an offender’s computer to see if it contains any illegal or inappropriate material. Presenters demonstrated Field Search’s latest version, and introduced an upcoming product that will search Mac computers.

This year’s conference offered 25 educational workshops in four tracks: electronic monitoring, general supervision, information technology, and management issues. Presentations covered territory from the Fourth Amendment boundaries of computer monitoring to high tech forensic laboratories. Agencies currently using certain technologies or methods also shared their experiences with audiences.

“I thought the conference was great,” says Beverly Walters, director of the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ electronic monitoring program. “There are excellent opportunities for networking.”

“I’ve attended every single one of these and to me it’s a must-do conference for people that are involved with any kind of remote electronic supervision technologies,” says Peggy Conway, an independent consultant and editor of the Journal of Offender Monitoring.

A highlight of this year’s meeting was the significant amount of law enforcement professionals outside of community corrections who attended. Across the country, more and more police and sheriffs’ departments are partnering with probation and parole to take advantage of the information generated from offender tracking systems.

“I personally believe we’re on the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of outside law enforcement agencies working together with community corrections,” Conway says. “And once law enforcement becomes engaged, it also benefits probation and parole.”

“This event is a great way to find out what products are available, especially if your agency is going out for procurement in the next year,” she adds.

Stone agrees.

“This is the conference to go to if your agency is using or thinking about using GPS electronic monitoring,”

Related Resources:

More on TV signals and GPS

More on the GPS/cellular hybrid


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