Monday: Probation Department Reviewing Ankle Bracelet Procedures
Jefferson County Probation department officials are reviewing their procedures for monitoring people wearing electronic ankle bracelets.
The bracelets are used to monitor convicted offenders who are not behind bars, and in some cases to follow suspects who are out on bail.
But the bracelets aren't perfect; in Syracuse, federal probation agents missed 46 alerts from a bracelet worn by child porn suspect David Renz, including the one that occured when he removed the bracelet. Renz then raped a 10 year old girl and killed her mother.
The Renz case has focused renewed attention on the bracelet system, everywhere bracelets are used.
The system works, said Jefferson County probation officer Jamie Augustine.
"I will get a phone call. I will get a text message. I will get an email. So it's pretty effective, and it's a 24 hour a day commitment."
And that's the issue: because offenders are being monitored constantly, at least in theory someone has to be paying attention to warnings and alerts all the time.
As a practical matter, alerts can be false alarams: low battery warnings, for example. And alerts can and do happen when probation officers aren't in the office.
"They're off doing something else and they don't have their phone with them," explained Ed Brown, the county's probation director. "Then alerts can be missed and that's what's forced us to kind of take a look at our procedure."
So far, no major problems have been caused by missed alerts. Still, Brown said he's investigating ways to put more resources into monitoring bracelets.
"We are going to explore possibly having an on-call system or perhaps working in conjunction with the sheriff's department," he said.
The Associated Press reported in-depth on the issue of monitoring ankle bracelets nationwide. Read the AP's report here.
Friday, September 19, 2014, Watertown, NY
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