Use of electronic trackers expands

Wisconsin law requires the state Department of Corrections to use electronic monitoring to track certain sex offenders, probationers, parolees and repeat drunken drivers. In addition to DOC, most Wisconsin sheriffs allow some offenders sentenced to their jails out on electronic monitoring. Starting in January, judges can order anyone who violates a domestic abuse or harassment restraining order to submit to monitoring as well.

Here's a look at how the state Department of Corrections handles electronic monitoring:

ON THE TRAIL

The agency is required to use GPS monitoring to track sexually violent offenders committed to treatment after they're released into the community and convicted child sex offenders until they die. Most of those offenders are on what's called an active monitoring system, which identifies and reports or records a person's presence near a crime scene or an exclusion zone, such as a school. Offenders wear a small device that continuously tracks and records their whereabouts. The device sends data to DOC every 15 seconds. If an offender crosses into an exclusion area or leaves an area where he or she must reside, an alert is immediately issued via a cellular signal.

The agency also can choose to impose passive GPS monitoring on those same offenders if the person has completed his or her sentence. The tracking devices record the offenders' locations as often as every minute. DOC staff can view those locations whenever they choose or at intervals ranging from four to 24 hours. Most offenders on lifetime monitoring are on active GPS, however.

A 2011 state law allows judges to force people convicted of violating restraining orders to submit to GPS tracking. The 2013-15 state budget created a grant program for counties where judges impose GPS monitoring as a condition of a restraining order.

DOC also monitors repeat drunken drivers using sobrietors and transdermal alcohol devices, which monitor whether a person has alcohol in his or her body through his or her breath or skin and transmit the results.

EYE IN THE SKY

DOC uses a monitoring center to track offenders and contracts with BI Inc. for GPS trackers. The agency doesn't track the number of alerts it receives from all of these devices, but the center is staffed around-the-clock. When operators receive alerts they analyze them, determine the cause and decide what action to take.

The center was monitoring a total of 2,867 offenders as of April.

Nearly 1,200 were on radio frequency monitors, essentially a system that monitors curfew compliance. The device consists of a transmitter and receiver. The receiver records the time when the transmitter enters or leaves an area, usually a residence. If an offender fails to leave when scheduled or fails to return when scheduled, the system alerts the monitoring center.

About 400 offenders were on sobrietor monitoring; about 150 were on radio frequency and sobrietor monitoring; about 315 were on transdermal alcohol monitoring; and about 660 were on GPS monitoring. --AP

Sources: Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin Department of Corrections


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