With shrinking budgets and prison overcrowding, electronic monitoring for repeat drunk driving offenders and low-risk criminals is becoming increasingly popular at the local, county, state and federal levels of community corrections.
For 30 years BI Incorporated, headquartered in Colorado, has been providing technology and treatment solutions to provide alternatives to incarceration and reduce the cost of corrections. Today their products, technical and monitoring customer service and evidence-based treatment and counseling programs, are used nationwide.
For alcohol monitoring, popular products include transdermal bracelets and home sobriety breath tests. “As a condition of parole, offenders are not permitted to drink,” said Monica Hook, BI director of marketing and communications. “These products monitor behavior and report if alcohol is being consumed.”
The company also provides GPS and traditional house arrest products to track offenders’ whereabouts. “We even have biometric voice verification technology that doesn’t requires the offender to wear any equipment,” said Hook. “Instead, an automated system calls and asks questions to passively monitor behavior.”
“Electronic monitoring is a cost effective alternative to prison. It costs just dollars each day compared to between $30-80 per day for incarceration,” she continued. “It enables the individual to maintain employment and take care of family obligations. The medical insurance also remains the individual’s responsibility, as opposed to the prison facility. If these individuals are in jail, they are not paying taxes and are a burden to society.”
These technologies allow community corrections to supervise more cases with fewer resources. “They have been a successful option for agencies that are facing an increased workload. The technology does some of the work for them. Monitoring equipment was never intended to replace officers, just supplement their work and give them the tools that allow them to focus on the higher risk individuals.”
Hook emphasized that while these monitors are effective, counseling is often needed for long term changes in an individual’s behavior. Because BI recognizes the importance of this, they offer a customized program with cognitive based counseling that has proven to be incredibly effective. “It’s a tremendous part of the criminal justice support we provide,” she said. “Studies have found that the chance of recidivism drops by as much as 20-40 percent for those who go through the program.
“For some, this gives them a structure and boundary with consequences, which is something many have never had before. Sometimes this is enough to create a change in their thinking. But for others, more intervention, such as counseling, is required.”
BI has tracked the progress of its programs and services with case studies available on their website. Franklin County, Pa., is one success story. By implementing the Day Reporting Center, the county was able to build a 479-bed jail rather than 600 beds as originally planned. As a result, the county saved nearly $10 million in construction costs.
A Shippensburg University report compared Day Reporting Center clients to those on standard probation in Franklin and found that DRC graduates failed at one third the national rate for repeat offenders and half of the rate of offenders who spent time in Franklin County Jail.
The future of using electronic monitoring technology to increase public safety, reduce costs to communities and help community corrections appears to be promising. “With the burgeoning mobile market and as technology continues to get smaller and faster, we are constantly growing, improving and evolving to meet our customers’ needs,” Hook said.
For more information about BI Incorporated, visit www.bi.com.