Sunday, February 16, 2014

Golden State GPS probation failures

Fascinating story today from the Los Angeles Times about the pitfalls of GPS monitoring by probation departments in California. Bottom line: Too much data. Here are some highlights:
The nation's largest probation department strapped GPS ankle monitors on the highest-risk of those convicts, expecting the satellite receivers to keep tabs on where they spent their days and nights, and therefore keep the public safe.

Instead, agents are drowning in a flood of meaningless data, masking alarms that could signal real danger.

County probation officers are inundated with alerts, and at times received as many as 1,000 a day. Most of the warnings mean little: a blocked signal or low battery.

The messages are routinely ignored and at times have been deleted because there were so many, officers say.
Auditors making a spot check last fall found more than a dozen cases in which officers failed to notice that the devices were dead and probationers roamed unmonitored, some for weeks.
"If we keep getting false positives, we're not going to know the real one that means danger," said John Tuchek, a vice president for the Assn. of Probation Supervisors.

California's statewide system for monitoring sex offenders sends out as many as 40,000 alerts each month to state parole agents.

The consequences of ignoring such warnings can be disastrous.

In upstate New York, federal probation officers deluged with false alarms opted to disregard tampering alerts that cleared themselves within five minutes.
Ironically, or perhaps just coincidentally, I had first-hand experience just today that Travis County's probation department experiences similar difficulties with false positives for absconders. I'm guessing this is a generalized issue with the tech, not something specific to California.

19 comments:

An Attorney said...

The only thing that is much worse than too little information is too much information. Buries the workers and keeps them from doing their other work, blocks the important signals, etc. So the system does not work? Or is it not ready for prime time?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"the system does not work? Or is it not ready for prime time?"

Basically it wasn't scalable. When the prisons de-incarcerated in CA, they weren't ready for the volume.

Margaret Moon said...

The stupid things have never worked well. And they aren't just on "dangerous criminals." Many violators who are not violent or dangerous are forced to wear them.
This is a propaganda piece to excuse the Governor of California for ignoring the court order to lower prison populations for so long. So now everyone gets hysterical because "dangerous" felons are running amok and the prisons stay overcrowded and more people get longer sentences... Just like the CCPOA constantly lobbies for. Prison Industry business as usual.

Will Yablome said...

This has been a problem going all the way back to the 1980s when electronic monitoring started. It never worked right then either.

Anonymous said...

Send all the illegals to Mexico and let out all the weed convicts and that should alleviate the problem. lol

FleaStiff said...

They have EVERYONE on monitors, its absurd. They have no time delay on triggering an alarm. If a signal drops out for a few moments, it trips an alarm, instead of starting a fifteen minute countdown timer for an alarm. Its similar to those early auto theft alarms that would be triggered by a good hard stare and would ring for hours.

Can't someone draft a sensible contract allowing for low batteries, line noise, interference and static electricity?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:41, this has nothing to do with "illegals," who commit crimes at far lower rates than citizens. Nor are "weed convicts" a significant contributor to GPS caseloads. Your comment goes beyond causal reductionism - it basically reflects your own obsessions overriding all facts and reason. Read the LA Times piece - the causes have nothing to do with your own pet hobbyhorses.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Every time my GPS went off in Tarrant County, the contractor called me on the phone to verify. I wanted to be able to verify. I was arrested on a made up PO violation occurring at the same time, the exact same time I was standing in front of a magistrate,. The attorney showed up late , court started at one pm. The compliant says I was at the residence and theatening someone I never knew who was sending me text messages accusing me of an assault that I did not commit and ending with a conviction without defense or prosecution looking at the physical evidence. That piece show the injury could not have occurred as complained. Medically not possible. Defense in criminal case refused to perform, open evidence he said, no discovery any more. He lied after conviction to get a plea sentence agreement to keep it from review. The next day court was held a new attorney attempted to withdraw sentencing agreement, judge said no. A motion for new trial, same judge, no. Attempt to file appeal, refused. The hired another attorney, former Appellant judge no less, files a defective insufficient state writ but fails to tell me. Denied, failed to appeal. State law says the petitioner is to be notified off all rulings by cert mail sig. Required. No cert. mail and when filed in fed court as 28 USC 2254 denied for not exhausting state right to review. Now I sit here and have the overwhelming evidence from medical records not presented that the whole thing is a lie and my case has never been reviewed for the facts. Never.
The GPS issue? When the court strapped it on it cost $800 per month. Part of the reason they kept checking mine is over 15 reports of PO violation that GPS said were impossible. But I still lost divorce and therefore they took all my property and ignored the conversion of my personal property. The complainant was caught flat footed in lies directly in response to the judge. Justice, mercy , innocent till proven? Crap. Due process? Get this case off my bench. Innocent broke unemployed felony on lies and can't get a review. The only thing that did work was the GPS keeping the multitude of false accusations from locking me up again.

Robert Langham said...

Can't anybody here PLAY this game?

Anonymous said...

The technology is a way for the Vendor who provides the technology to make money. The Vendor could care less about public safety. Everything that is technological in criminal justice provides false sense of security period.

Anonymous said...

I laugh at those who try to track so called sex offenders.

"Red" Merriweather Coast said...

While the tech problem is definitely solvable, a short-term solution might be to restrict the GPS monitor to fewer probationers to keep the number manageable.

Anonymous said...

Traditional GPS electronic monitoring does not prevent crime. The only good thing about electronic monitoring is that you know the exact second when the offender cuts it off and runs.

FleaStiff said...

>you know the exact second when the offender cuts it off

Yes, but the computer Never gives a list of "Runners" it just gives a list of ALL alarms. Every temporary failure of a few seconds is an alarm, the ones that start working again promptly are mixed in with the ones that never work again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 06:52 AM, you know what you need to do. Whining on a blog won't help you. Now get out there, make a lot of noise, and get you some.

Anonymous said...

I've always hated monitoring GPS bracelets, but they are useful when you have a probationer who has a long history of violence, or one who always has someone complaining about him for one thing or another. The data can be overwhelming if you don't set parameters for the data. As a PO, I don't care of Johnny's GPS battery is at 20%. The bracelet will tell Johnny when he needs to charge. All I cared about was when he left his home, the route he traveled to and from work, and when he arrived home. When a vendor called me at 3am to tell me the device lost signal for 2 minutes but was now fine, I let my disgust be known.

Anonymous said...

the feds have testified in thousands of cases that gps ankle bracelets are useless and unreliable, and offer zero zilch nada nothing as relates to public safety. pure smoke and mirror technology. and then when you add up all the real actual costs of gps ankle bracelet programs - they actually cost more than a jail bed - particulary in jail systems that do not have jail overcrowding problems. bracelets = danger, and there are thousands of stories where they were cut off and the perp injured maimed killed.

Anonymous said...

The information you provide about Travis County is simply NOT accurate. GPS technology is only a tool and when monitored constantly can be very effective. This is the case in Travis Co.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Say what you will, 8:27, but I personally witnessed a tech from Travis County change out equipment on a pretrial defendant because it was giving false positives. The man checked while standing right next to the defendant in his home and found the equipment said he was outside the allowed range. Anonymous, fact-free comments like yours, aside, I can't help but believe what I saw with my own eyes.