Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Political grandstanding drives GPS tracking grant

Using federal grant money, Texas is putting GPS monitors on several hundred additional parolees who the Governor says are dangerous sexual predators. But some of them have never been convicted of a sex offense, aren't on the sex offender registry and have been out of prison for many years. Reports the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward:
Though Perry and state corrections officials say the mandate will make the public safer, questions linger about why parolees who were considered good enough safety risks to remove from monitors are now dangerous enough to need them — $1.7 million worth, paid for by a federal criminal-justice grant to improve public safety.

"If they've been determined to be a high-risk offender, then they are being reviewed for a GPS bracelet," said Bryan Collier, deputy director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a former state parole director. "Why are some who did not have monitors now being placed on GPS? This grant has enabled us to monitor some who we didn't have the resources to do before."

In his Sept. 27 announcement in Houston, Perry touted the new monitoring initiative as a way to "provide greater protections to our citizens by taking our efforts in dealing with sex offenders up yet another notch."
Maybe so, said Huntsville attorney Bill Habern, who represents Jennings. "But why, now, all of a sudden, have some of these parolees who have been off monitoring for several years been determined to be a high risk?" Habern asked.

"It begs the question about how the risk is being determined."

By last week, at least 153 parolees had been ordered onto GPS monitors.

Parole officials said more than 500 others, most of them with crimes against children in their backgrounds, were being reviewed for inclusion as well.
An all-but homebound parolee in Dallas suffering from congestive heart disease and diabetes told Ward, "I go out once or twice a week, is all. I'm not able to do more ... To have a monitor on me is a waste of money. This seems like political grandstanding."

He's right: It is grandstanding. Nothing but an election year gimmick that actually makes the public less safe by diverting limited supervision resources toward non-evidence based approaches. Larding on extra conditions for successful parolees who've been out for years makes little sense when the greatest risk of recidivism - and thus the greatest need for close monitoring - is in the first year or two after release.

Last year, Parole Board Chair Rissie Owens was found personally liable by a federal court for applying sex offender registration conditions on offenders not convicted of a sex crime. Some of those targeted by the Governor's initiative appear to fall into the same category, making me wonder what federal courts will think of this program if it's ever challenged.

See related Grits posts:

15 comments:

D.A. Confidential said...

Just for once, I'll propose an alternative view. Merely for the sake of discussion, you understand.

How about the proffered answer to your "Why now?" question? Simply that the funds were not available before now and, as you suggest, other more worthwhile programs were being funded with potential GPS money. Now that the funds are available, monitors are being put on those who should have had them before.

You say it's a waste because some of these parolees have been out for a year or two. You make the assumption that they've all being behaving perfectly, but guess what? That may not be true. They might well be out selling drugs, burgling etc and just haven't been caught. Why haven't they been caught? Because we've had no way of monitoring them.
Be clear: I'm not saying they are all out there committing crimes -- I'm saying we don't know whether they are or not. This might be a good way of finding out.

Anonymous said...

Is this active GPS or passive GPS? If it's passive GPS, it isn't worth a nickel in protecting anyone. You find out about a violation hours after it happens. If it's active GPS, does the grant include funding for the extra officers it will take to monitor the GPS reports? Does it include funding for officers to go out immediately to follow up on a violation? On a very targeted basis, GPS can be a useful tool. As a broad range strategy, it's a cash cow for vendors and a worthless feel good mockery of public safety for politicians.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

DAC, if they're selling drugs but otherwise flying under radar, how will GPS assist in finding that out? GPS doesn't tell you in and of itself if someone is committing crimes, it's just a blip on a computer screen.

Otherwise, it's not true the funds are only now available. Perry has given out those same grants for a decade without ever using them for this. So why now? The answer is that it's election season and this is a campaign gimmick, not a public safety initiative.

9:09, I'm totally with you on the limited usefulness of GPS. Without extra resources for monitoring, it doesn't really do much.

sunray's wench said...

If an individual has not been convicted of a sexual crime, they should not be classified as a sex-offender. Similarly, if an individual has not been convicted of a crime that by statute warrants GPS monitoring, they should not be required to suddenly be tagged in this way.

Who is deciding which individuals have to now be tagged?

Anonymous said...

Some of these monitoring companies have contributed to Rick Perrys campaign.

Juliet's Mom said...

D.A.Confidential @ 8:36 a.m. said: "How about the proffered answer to your "Why now?" question? "

Merely for the sake of discussion: 1)Perry was too busy giving money away to some of his other friends and he almost forgot his friends in the private prison industry. 2)Its election time and what better way to appear to have any concern for public safety and appear tough on crime than brow beating sex offenders. We'll put ankle monitors on 'em and save? What, will this eliminate the need for parole officers and sex offender registrars? And how is this decision of Perry's supported by "empirical data?"

It has been established, sex offender laws are seriously flawed. It makes absolutely no sense to continue adding on to a flawed system unlessthe motives are less than pure. Perhaps it is profitable...

I'm wondering what GPS company will be receiving the bulk of the gps business. What is the cost per person? And as always, isn't it true the offenders will be paying a high percentage of the cost themselves? What other government funding will be made available in the near future for this new Perry brain fart?

Perry's anouncement took place in Houston. Mr. D.A.C., does your county have a contract with "Satellite Tracking Devices of People" (STDP)is located in Houston TX? STDP has ties to GEO, CCA, Cornell all private industries profitting from the Texas Criminal Justice System. This STDP has government contracts throughout Texas and other states, as well as international contracts. STDP has tracking devices for people, property and assets.

Do you own stock in any of these companies? Do you, or any of the elected officials who serve the same area as you, in any capacity, receive campaign contributions from any of these companies: STDP, GEO, CCA, Cornell? (including governor and US senators.) Do any of these companies have facilities in the county you serve?

When Perry says the doors are opened for business, he means it. He can help with the increase in demand for your product and give you Texas money as well.

Anonymous said...

More political bullshit..Trying to make the "general" public fell all warm and toasty inside. Monitors are proven worthless once they're cut off by the offender. There is absolutely no manpower to enforce GPS monitors. This story is useless..

Perrynomics 101 said...

to comment from Juliet's mom

satellite tracking of people, llc
aka stop,llc is currently the correct name possible dbas

STOP claims to mfg products in Houston.

Also possible the name of co just changed to this or could change w/i months or 1-2 yrs making the co and owners difficult to trace. (Basic Perrynomics of protecting id's of cos/individuals receiving guvfavors or tx awards)

Unwritten rules but understood policies and procedures of Perrynomics on Funds and Friends

Anonymous said...

sunray's wench

When they make parole sex offender case loads, the State includes individuals who may have attempted a sex crime while committing another crime. For example, if an individual was charged and found guilty of a burglary, during which he tried to commit a sexual assault, he would qualify to be placed on a sex offender case load. Sometimes the offense that someone is charged with does not tell the whole story.

Anonymous said...

You may want to read Mike Wards article a little more closely. This cat Jennings was a walking crime wave.

Parole officials said more than 500 others, most of them with crimes against children in their backgrounds, were being reviewed for inclusion as well.

Jennings was in the first group.

Arrested when he was 15, Jennings was convicted of aggravated kidnapping — as an adult — and sentenced to eight years for the kidnapping in which the young boy was sodomized.

The incident occurred after Jennings escaped from juvenile authorities who had charged him with stealing a car, he said.

He was released from prison but was returned in 1986, on a forgery charge, after being caught with a stolen check to buy groceries.

After completing his sentences for the kidnapping and forgery in 1988, Jennings was back in prison in 1989 as a habitual criminal — with a 25-year sentence for stealing money from an ATM with a stolen debit card.

"I'd been in prison since I was 16. I didn't have a job, didn't know how to make it," Jennings said.

Paroled in 1991, he was locked up again in 1998 for parole violations that included allowing a youth who was 17 to work for him. Conditions of his parole included a prohibition from associating with anyone under 18, he said.

He was released on parole once again in 2005, prison records show.

sunray's wench said...

"Sometimes the offense that someone is charged with does not tell the whole story."

Oh I know that only too well. My point is though, if Texas can punish someone for something they have not been found guilty for, where do you think it will stop?

frank said...

Money Money Money, Votes Votes Votes. Your funny DAC. Do you know what GPS does or how it works? If you give me a rock will the GPS tell you that? How do we know you havent done anything Illegal? Why dont we put one on you just so we know you wont do anything wrong/Illegal. I think it should be challenged. I think that it should be brought up, and taken all the way it can go, that if you are an elected officials and you have ties to what ever company that our Federal Govt money shouldnt be allowed to fund that company. Perry hasnt done crap for Texas. Texans do crap for Texas. Texans need to step up and kick these guys out of office and put someone true in there. Perry and others cant win again with out putting the "scare" "child safety" tactics out there. He is worthless put his pocket book isnt!!!

Shelomith said...

D.A. Confidential, I find your response very interesting.
"I'm not saying they are all out there committing crimes -- I'm saying we don't know whether they are or not. This might be a good way of finding out."
Why stop at former sex offenders? I think that what you said could apply to the general population. Surely some of those innocuous looking folk have evil in their hearts, so just tag 'em all. Of course, we'll have to overlook parts of the Constitution, but it seems as though we have been moving in that direction for a while.

matthewhobbs444 said...

Murders? Thieves that invade your home, your privacy. drunk drivers that have killed children, and get a slap on the hand? If we are taking away one class of peoples civil rights, why not all who have been known to harm children in one way or another. How many young people under 18 years old overdose a year. How many young children have been killed by drunk drivers? These devices will do nothing to protect our children. But I don't believe it is about protecting the children. Well put "POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING".

matthewhobbs444 said...

Murders? Thieves that invade your home, your privacy. drunk drivers that have killed children, and get a slap on the hand? If we are taking away one class of peoples civil rights, why not all who have been known to harm children in one way or another. How many young people under 18 years old overdose a year. How many young children have been killed by drunk drivers? These devices will do nothing to protect our children. But I don't believe it is about protecting the children. Well put "POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING".