New Jersey governor signs bill establishing alternative pretrial release

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New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, recently signed into law a bill that will allow defendants who can’t afford to pay for bail out of jail on an alternative pretrial release system.

The legislation creates non-monetary alternatives to bail so lower-level offenders do not have to spend months in jail waiting for their trial to commence, which can be a sometimes long, and drawn-out process. The legislation also includes a risk-assessment system for pretrial detainees to determine their risk levels.

Nationwide, more than 60 percent of jail inmates are pretrial defendants awaiting court proceedings. With crowded court dockets, pretrial defendants who can’t post bail have become a major expense and reason for jail crowding. Increasingly, correctional agencies are employing pretrial alternative such as electronic monitoring, which is more cost-effective than keeping an individual in jail.

BI Incorporated works with many pretrial service agencies that have incorporated the use of electronic monitoring systems—including devices that monitor for sobriety or include GPS tracking—to help move defendants to community supervision. Electronic monitoring allows supervising officers to accurately monitor the movements of pretrial defendants, while also allowing participants to continue with their daily lives, including maintaining jobs and managing child care.

To read more about the bail reform measure signed by Gov. Christie, click here.

To read more about BI’s electronic monitoring products and how they can support probation, parole and pretrial service agencies, click here.

Posted in Industry News

SOBERLINK adds range for test ‘window’

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SOBERLINK SL2SOBERLINK, Inc. is introducing Variable Testing Windows to their alcohol monitoring technology which will allow supervising officers to increase the amount of time users have to submit a mobile breath alcohol test.

Supervising officers will now be able to set testing windows for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours or 4 hours. Currently, users have 30 minutes from the time they are notified of a mandatory test to submit their breath sample. The new feature was created to permit customization for individual users’ needs after SOBERLINK received feedback that some users did not have enough time to submit tests.

To set the variable window, select the duration of the testing window from the drop down once you are logged into your secure web portal. Once the window is set, the duration will apply to all tests for that particular user.

BI Incorporated is the exclusive master distributor of the SOBERLINK SL2 for the criminal justice market, excluding Missouri and Texas. The SL2 is an innovative handheld device, both cellular and GPS enabled, that allows community corrections agencies to monitor offender sobriety in the community. BI is a national provider of electronic monitoring technology and monitoring services for community corrections and immigration agencies. SOBERLINK was founded in 2010 and began selling SOBERLINK devices in 2011. Today, SOBERLINK transmits more than 10,000 remote breath tests each day.


Posted in Industry News, Monitoring Technology

JAG Program awarded nearly $300 million in 2014

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The United States Bureau of Justice Assistance recently released the total number of funds allocated for the 2014 Justice Assistance Grant awards, reporting that more than $300 million was awarded. Of that, approximately $238 million went to states, while $7.2 million went to territories and the District of Columbia.

The JAG program awards funding to each state and territory for law enforcement and corrections programs based on that state or territory’s share of the nation’s violent crime and population.

The awards are given specifically for the following purposes:

  • law enforcement
  • prosecution and courts
  • prevention and education
  • corrections and community corrections
  • drug treatment
  • planning, evaluation, and technology improvement
  • crime victim and witness programs

In 2014, the five states with the largest total allocations were California ($32.2 million), Texas ($22.2 million), Florida ($18.5 million), New York ($16.5 million) and Illinois ($11.4 million). In 2014, more than 1,500 local governments were eligible for awards.

The benefit of such funding is that it allows state and local governments to pursue electronic monitoring and reentry programs like those provided by BI Incorporated and our sister company GEO Reentry Services. Many of the programs BI and GEO Reentry have provided were accomplished with funding from the JAG program.

BI is partnered with correctional agencies across the country to provide GPS monitoring, traditional RF monitoring, alcohol monitoring technology and more. Such programs allow correctional agencies to save on costly incarceration while still helping to keep offenders placed under supervision accountable for their actions.

To learn more about how the Bureau of Justice Statistics calculates how to allocate the awards, click here.

To learn more about BI’s products, click here.


Posted in Industry News, Monitoring Operations, Monitoring Technology

Alcohol monitoring to combat drunk driving and encourage road safety

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A recent Forbes article details a proposed federal law that would mandate the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk driving offenders in every state. Across the country, legislators have been working to pass legislation that clamps down on efforts to reduce driving under the influence.

Ignition interlocks are typically one part of the equation, along with alcohol monitoring systems that can monitor repeat offenders daily.

According to Forbes, more than 10,000 people die each year due to a drunk driver—while drunk driving costs taxpayers $132 billion annually.

Ignition interlock devices and alcohol monitoring work to enforce sobriety and reduce the likelihood of an offender driving drunk.

BI Incorporated offers three alcohol monitoring systems: the BI TAD®, the SOBERLINK SL2 and the BI Sobrietor®.

The TAD includes continuous alcohol monitoring and radio frequency monitoring in one ankle-worn device. The system measures ingested alcohol through a sensor on the ankle bracelet via vaporous or insensible perspiration passed through the skin. The TAD also acts as a home electronic monitoring system to detect the presence or absence of a person at home at pre-determined times.

The SL2 is a handheld, wireless testing device that transmits BrAC test results in real-time. The device collects a deep-lung breath sample while simultaneously photographing the user to ensure the offender being monitored is the person providing the sample.

Like the SL2, the Sobrietor collects a deep-lung breath sample and results are transmitted remotely through a telephone connection. The test results are then matched against a highly reliable biometric voiceprint.

Tests for both the SL2 and the Sobrietor can be administered at random intervals or at scheduled times daily.

To learn more about BI’s technology, click here.


Posted in Monitoring Operations, Monitoring Technology

BI ExacuTrack® One Q&A with Senior Product Manager Jim Buck

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BI ExacuTrack OneBI ExacuTrack One is the only device on the market that utilizes four GPS systems to maximize location accuracy. The Omni-directional antenna delivers superior signal reception, and the field-replaceable battery provides up to 80 hours of battery life with a single charge, helping to drive client compliance. In addition, the cordless transmitting device—the beacon—enhances the device’s reliability, reduces cost and saves on power consumption. When the individual enters an area where a beacon is located (home, school or even work) the system intuitively switches to radio-frequency monitoring. Officers also have the ability to communicate with clients through the device using a set of pre-defined, recorded messages such as directing their clients on how to charge their battery or call their officer, to name a few. ExacuTrack One enables officers to draw specific zones in any shape through using industry-leading mapping technologies. The device offers numerous tamper-resistant features, including the industry’s only GPS jamming detection capability. Officers can be notified via e-mail, PDA or a combination. Event pairing enables officers to focus on critical alerts and higher risk cases.

Jim Buck is a Senior Product Manager at BI Incorporated. He has more than two decades of experience with BI and led ExacuTrack One product development efforts. Below, Jim answers questions about the ExacuTrack One.

Q. Why is the beacon an important tool to use with the ExacuTrack One?

A. ExacuTrack One has the option of a RF beacon that can be placed in the home, treatment center, work or other location where a client spends time. The beacon acts as an RF transmitter while the ExacuTrack One unit acts as a receiver. When the two come within range of one another, client location can be monitored using RF technology. This helps to conserve tracker battery life while also eliminating GPS drift or false alerts. This is especially advantageous when supervising clients living in environments where they are in close proximity to neighbors, such as multi-floor apartment buildings or even trailer homes.

Q. What cellular networks does the ExacuTrack One use?

A. The ExacuTrack One uses the CDMA network provided by Sprint and Verizon. Like all cellular providers, there are areas with limited coverage. For example, if there is no Sprint or Verizon coverage, the device may use other roaming providers also on the CDMA network. However, when the device is attempting to use AFLT, it must be in the service area of the devices service provider (Sprint or Verizon). The unit’s service provider can be determined by a ‘V’ (Verizon) or ‘S’ (Sprint) printed with the serial number on the device.

Q. Does the ExacuTrack One work in areas with little or no cell service?

A. If the client either lives or works within cell coverage, the device will automatically download when he/she comes within cell coverage. If, however, the client lives and works outside of cell coverage and the unit is unable to download daily through cellular communication, BI offers the BI HomeBase 105. The BI HomeBase 105 works with ExacuTrack One and provides a means of downloading location data to the host system. The unit relies on a traditional landline connection to communicate ExacuTrack One messages. It is ideal for clients with poor cellular reception in and around their residence, such as those living in rural areas.

Q. How can you tell if a client is attempting to tamper with the system?

A. There are several ways to detect if a client is trying to tamper with the device. This might include no GPS for periods of time over an hour in length, a GPS jamming detection alert, no motion longer than four hours, strap tamper alert or missed callback.

Q. How can do officers communicate with clients through the ExacuTrack One?

A. With ExacuTrack One, officers are able to communicate with clients using pre-recorded messages and prompts. A waterproof speaker on the tracking unit allows for communication from the officer to the client. Once the message is received by the client, the message is acknowledged by pressing a sensor on the tracking unit. Officers can send these voice notifications immediately or at a future date. You can require your client to acknowledge a voice notification by touching the client acknowledgement sensor. These messages are available in English and Spanish. The following list details all officer-initiated voice notification messages:

        1. “Call your officer now.”
        2. “Low battery, recharge unit.”
        3. “Please pay your fees immediately.”
        4. “Report to the office immediately.”
        5. “Remember your appointment.”

Q. What options do officers have to determine offender location?

A. See below:

  1. The device will automatically call in on its regularly scheduled time (determined by service plan).
  2. The device can be located between regularly scheduled times by choosing “find client now” (often referred to as “pinging” the device)
  3. In the event of a client escape and an officer needing constant updates, BI TotalAccess® offers Pursuit Mode which increases the location acquisition rate of one point every 15 seconds and the reporting interval to once every minute for a period of 30 minutes. It eliminates multiple Locate Requests and allows locations to be received in near real-time. An icon next to the client’s name on the caseload snapshot and mapping page shows the client is in Pursuit Mode. Event messages are available on the Alert and Event page. Once Pursuit Mode has ended, the location acquisition and reporting rates return to previous values.
  4. The Point In Time map allows officers to view client GPS points during a specified time-frame. Officers can also center the map over a specific address to determine if GPS points are located within a search area. This feature can also be used as a crime investigation tool. Put in the address and time of a crime and it will return any ExacuTrack One unit that was in the vicinity.

Q. Can multiple offenders on GPS tracking live in the same house or apartment?

A. Each unit is assigned to one individual only. The units do not interfere or communicate with each other, they only communicate with the host. Multiple offenders assigned to the ExacuTrack One can live in the same residence or apartment building.

Q. What value is the “Low battery, recharge unit” message?

A. This message to the client can be set up to repeat and not be just a one-time message. The ability to have the message repeat multiple times at intervals (from once every 15 minutes to once every four hours, in 15 minute increments) results in clients recharging their unit rather than forgetting to plug it in. Statistics show that since this was introduced, the number of units going into a Missed Callback state was reduced by more than 40 percent. This means fewer alerts and notifications to officers.

Posted in BI Insight, Industry News, Monitoring Operations, Monitoring Technology

Wisconsin recognized for reducing recidivism rate

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NRRC_logo_transparent_versionfThe state of Wisconsin, which partners with BI Incorporated for electronic monitoring technology, was recently recognized in a national report for its efforts to reduce recidivism.

The report states that 56.2 percent of offenders released in 2007 went on to return to prison in the following three years as compared to 51.1 percent of offenders released in 2010.

The report was released by the National Reentry Resource Center, a project of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. It credits the lowered recidivism rate with several factors such as increased community-based resources, treatment alternatives and diversion and case planning and risk assessments. It also said the state was aided in reducing recidivism levels by more use of graduated sanctions when offenders deviate from release conditions.

BI has partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, one of the largest correctional agencies nationwide, for more than a decade for monitoring systems and a host server which supports the state-operated monitoring call center for managing offender alerts, schedules and more.

Electronic monitoring technology, like that provided by BI—including GPS monitoring, traditional radio-frequency monitoring and alcohol monitoring—allows officials to seek alternatives to detention by providing technology that accurately and reliably tracks the movements of participants under supervision.

The technology helps supervising officers to monitor schedules, curfews, and in the case of GPS tracking, actual location data as offenders live in communities. Alcohol monitoring additionally helps corrections officials enforce compliance to court-ordered sanctions and helps offenders maintain sobriety.

Electronic monitoring is often used in conjunction with reentry programming like that provided by our sister company, GEO Reentry Services.

To read the full CSG report, click here.

Posted in Monitoring Technology, Reentry

Summer Correctional Conferences: See You Soon

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Our BI team will hit the road to meet with customers and industrial professionals in coming weeks and months. If you attend any of these correctional conferences, please stop by to say hello. We’d love to fill you in on the latest in technology and related monitoring services.

Upcoming shows we’ll attend include:

  • APPA, Aug 3-6: The American Probation and Parole Association hosts its annual summer training institute in New Orleans this year. APPA conducts the largest national training institute for community corrections offering workshops, special sessions, resource expo, and networking opportunities tailored to your needs. You will be exposed to discussions on the latest theories and examine the newest technologies as you connect to your peers in enjoyable networking opportunities. Learn more
  • ACA, Aug. 15-20: The American Correctional Association hosts its annual summer conference in Salt Lake City this year. ACA’s conferences are some of the largest and most diverse for correctional professionals, offering an opportunity for workshops, presentations and exhibit hours that help community corrections professionals to stay abreast of the latest in best practices and technology.
  • NAPSA, Sept. 7-10: NAPSA’s 42nd Annual Conference and Training Institute is less than two months away! This year’s conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado and is appropriately themed “Taking Pretrial to New Heights”. The general sessions will focus on: The Colorado Story, Smarter Justice – The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative, The 30th Anniversary of the Bail Reform Act, and Partners in Pretrial Reform. Make sure to take advantage of the conference program by registering before August 1st to receive the reduced early registration rate. Below are some helpful links for information about the conference and traveling to Denver. Learn more.
Posted in Industry News

BI Viewpoint: Interview with Mike Cooke

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Mike-Cooke-BI-Principal-Systems-EngineerMike Cooke

Principal Software Solutions Architect at BI Incorporated 

Q. Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to work for BI?

I first came to BI in 1999 as consultant for AVICA Incorporated to work on a new case management system, which ended up being turned into the AccuTrax system. The new system was to be a web application – something very rare in 1999. I worked with a small team of consultants and BI employees for about a year on the project. As the project was coming closer to completion, I was given the opportunity to apply for a full-time position as Senior Software Engineer. I was lucky enough to get the job in September 2000 and have been working for the development group ever since.

Q. Please describe your work and a typical week?

A typical work week for me involves working closely with the business and the development team to create the right solutions and maintain the integrity of the systems we work on. We start at the very beginning of the process, working directly with the marketing department and product management to break down the business needs into functional requirements. The functional requirements represent the agreement between business and development about what we will be delivering. This is a collaborative effort that really continues throughout the development life cycle.

When I am not working on requirements, I am working directly with the development team to design the technical solutions. This is always a team effort, taking the best ideas from everyone involved, to come up with a workable solution that meets the business requirements. I spend a fair amount of time researching and working with the various technologies available to determine the best course of action for a development effort. In short, I work with a great group of software engineers solving problems and producing the best software we can.

Q. What is your top priority in this role?

The number one priority in my role is to provide technical solutions for business needs within the organization. It is my job, along with my coworkers’, to ensure that technical solutions are delivered with the highest quality and provide the most value to the business.

Q. Can you tell us about Pursuit Mode, the latest BI ExacuTrack® One option?

Pursuit Mode is a really interesting feature. Officers can take a client being monitored on an ExacuTrack One device and invoke Pursuit Mode through our newly updated mobile application. Taking this action essentially tells the ExacuTrack One device to capture a GPS coordinate every 15 seconds and to report that information to the host system every minute, regardless of the configured reporting interval.

Officers can use this feature to in effect “track” the client in real time. Used in conjunction with the improved BI mobile application, the officer has access to a dynamic mapping of the client’s movements, indicating their location on a minute-by-minute basis while in Pursuit Mode. This feature can be used to direct officers in the field to the client’s whereabouts, even if they are moving at a high rate of speed and are actively trying to avoid detection. This capability is a natural extension of our existing location and mapping features in TotalAccess.

The development team was able to deliver this feature in a very short time frame by composing existing TotalAccess capabilities into a seemingly all-new capability. The ability to put the ExacuTrack One device into an elevated reporting state has always been a feature of the Exclusion Zone Processing in TotalAccess.  Locate Client is a feature for reaching out to the device and forcing it to contact the host. Those existing capabilities combined with some of the built-in state management functionality in TotalAccess, allowed us to compose and deliver a whole new feature without a large development effort.

This ability to deliver new features by combining existing capabilities is very powerful. The team is focused on continuing to produce solutions that can be reused and combined with other features to create even more solutions in the future.

Q. What is your favorite part of your work?

My favorite part of the job is working closely with such a talented team, brainstorming solutions for the business. I really enjoy the collaborative nature of the job. I work with very smart and creative engineers and there is never a single person who defines an entire solution. In this field you never stop learning. Software engineering is always moving very fast, new technologies are being introduced all the time. I love the fact that we are always exposed to new technologies and new approaches to solving problems. I really thrive on the problem-solving aspect of my job – I am often most engaged when the solutions are not straightforward and require creativity and tenacity to resolve. I also enjoy working for a company that provides a valuable service to society and does not just make widgets to sell.

This interview originally appeared in BI’s Viewpoint email newsletter.

Posted in Industry News, Monitoring Operations

California bill would expand electronic monitoring in the state

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ETOne_BlueA state legislator has introduced a bill in California that would expand GPS electronic monitoring programs in the state as a response to Public Safety Realignment, also known as the AB 109 legislation.

The bill, AB 2499, would allow county sheriffs and county boards of supervisors to expand their electronic monitoring programs to include former state prisoners who were sent to county jails after AB 109 took effect.

AB 109 shifted the responsibility for thousands of prisoners from the state to county jails with the goal of reducing California’s prison overcrowding—a mandate of the United States Supreme Court.

AB 2499 was introduced by 14th District State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla who said the bill is intended for non-violent offenders, stating that it is “an opportunity to make sure that there’s room for the prisoners that actually need to be behind bars.”

BI Incorporated works with multiple counties in California to provide electronic monitoring technology, including GPS monitoring, and monitoring support. Electronic monitoring, which is more cost-effective than incarceration, helps probation officials keep offenders on track and in compliance with court-ordered sanctions.

As Assemblywoman Bonilla indicated, electronic monitoring also frees up space in the county jails for offenders convicted of violent crimes and helps to reduce overcrowding.

BI provides reliable GPS tracking technology like the BI ExacuTrack® One, an ankle-mounted tracking device that relies on available GPS data and other location monitoring technologies to accurately track an offender’s movement within their community.

Read AB 2499—which passed the state assembly in May—in full here.

Posted in Monitoring Operations, Monitoring Technology

Electronic monitoring on the rise in North Carolina

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BI ExacuTrack OneThe use of electronic monitoring is on the rise in North Carolina, where BI Incorporated has a contract with the Department of Public Safety to provide electronic monitoring technology and support.

Recently, BI’s approach and monitoring products—including the BI ExacuTrack One, BI’s tamper-resistant, ankle-mounted GPS monitoring unit—were profiled in a feature by the Times News.

The article indicates electronic monitoring has gained popularity in the state thanks in large part to improved technology and reporting and a new state law that requires certain sex offenders to be placed under GPS monitoring. The low cost, particularly when compared to the high price of incarceration, was another motivating factor.

The technology is also a time-saver for probation and parole officers who are able to easily access BI’s computer system to review supervised offenders in real time.

In addition to the ExacuTrack One, BI provides the department with the HomeGuard® 200 and HomeGuard 206, systems that monitor schedules and curfews via radio frequency and cellular technologies, respectively, BI TotalAccess® software for supervising officers to access and update offender data through a secure website and BI Monitoring Operations, BI’s 24/7 national monitoring center, which offers technical and customer support.

For many correctional agencies, electronic monitoring is a cost-effective way to hold offenders accountable for their actions while assisting with community safety. BI partners with agencies across the nation to provide reliable tracking technology and support so supervising officers can rest assured that they will be accurately updated on the location of monitored offenders.

In addition to the article above, the use of electronic monitoring in Guilford County, North Carolina, was recently featured in TWC News. BI works with Guilford County to provide electronic monitoring, while BI’s sister company, GEO Reentry Services, partners with the county to provide a day reporting center designed to help offenders successfully reenter society.

Posted in Monitoring Operations, Monitoring Technology