Undue reliance on electronic monitoring can endanger public safety
(Santa Ana, CA) — The Orange County Probation Department issued a termination letter to Sentinel Offender Services, LLC on Aug. 1 after an Orange County internal audit revealed several instances of gross negligence.This audit was highlighted by Supervisor Todd Spitzer at the June 25, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting (Item #25 on Consent Calendar). OC Probation contracts with Sentinel for Full-Case Management Supervised Electronic Confinement (SEC) and Home Detention Program Services utilizing a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system.
The audit reviewed 143 cases and revealed more than 15 instances of gross negligence. Instances included Sentinel failing to track several program participants for periods of up to 28 days and failing to report program participants for repeatedly violating terms of their probation as reported by Breath Alcohol Testing devices.
“The findings of that report were anything less than stellar,” Spitzer said. “In fact, it was alarming. These untracked individuals posed an immediate threat to public safety, and I could not just sit back and watch.”
This series of unfortunate incidents again gives an example of the problems Orange County is facing due to AB 109 - such as jail overcrowding, which then leads to such alternatives as GPS monitoring. None of the violators profiled were AB 109ers, however, AB 109 adds to the already high jail population numbers, requiring many of those inmates to be released onto electronic monitoring.
“These incidents show why we cannot rely on such alternatives in lieu of incarceration,” Spitzer said. “We want to monitor the probationer. But we also need to monitor the monitors.”
In an update to the Board of Supervisors dated July 25, 2013, OC Probation noted that Sentinel continued to have GPS tracking failures between July 1 and July 15. Numerous instances of violations were associated with alcohol testing.
“Sentinel has been very supportive of me over the years, however, they have not been effective in their duties to the County,” Spitzer said. “The Board of Supervisors is the watchdog of the County and we are doing our job to protect public safety.”
Spitzer urged OC Probation to increase safeguards in the process.
“If we continue to use electronic monitoring, it needs to be fool-proof,” he said.
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