III. Community Corrections Programs Before Conviction
After the police arrest a suspect, the prosecutor’s office decides whether to charge the suspect with a crime. If the prosecutor decides not to charge for lack of evidence, the suspect is automatically released. If the suspect will be charged with a crime, he or she becomes a “pretrial defendant” and appears before a judge to determine whether the defendant is eligible for release from jail. Although most defendants are released on their own recognizance with the promise to appear at their next court date, some defendants must be released on pretrial supervision, which is a form of correctional supervision of a defendant who has not yet been convicted.
A. Pretrial Supervision
The pretrial release decision is one of the first decisions judges make following an arrest so that some defendants can be released with supervision prior to their next court date. Pretrial release allows defendants who have not yet been convicted the opportunity to live and work as productive citizens until their next scheduled court date. Defendants can support their families and assist their attorneys in case preparation. In turn, the courts can be assured that the defendant will be more likely to appear. Pretrial supervision involves compliance with court-ordered conditions for a specified time period. Examples of court-ordered conditions include calling in or reporting for appointments, obtaining a substance abuse or mental health evaluation, maintaining employment, and avoiding contact with victims. The court can issue a warning, or modify or add more conditions for noncompliance. Continued noncompliance or committing a new crime can result in the court removing the defendant from pretrial supervision and incarcerating him or her in jail until the case has been processed.
Another form of community supervision without a conviction is diversion. Defendants are technically not convicted—rather, they enter into an agreement with the court to complete various conditions of probation, with the understanding that successfully completing these conditions will result in having the charges completely dismissed without a conviction. If a defendant does not succeed or commits a new crime during supervision, the courts will change the paperwork so that the defendant’s conviction will become a permanent part of the record (Ulrich, 2002). Forms of pretrial supervision and diversion may include house arrest and electronic monitoring.
B. Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest
Electronic monitoring (EM) is a technology used to aid in the community-based supervision either before or after conviction. Monitoring electronically has a variety of levels, ranging from a basic unsophisticated phone line system that monitors offenders very infrequently to a continuous Global Positioning System (GPS) that can pinpoint the offender’s exact location at all times.
House arrest requires a defendant to remain at his or her residence for a portion of the day. House arrest is often used in conjunction with electronic monitoring because the technology can enforce the curfew conditions, which can range from nighttime hours through any nonworking hours. This practice is also known as home confinement, which refers to the same program for convicted offenders.
The rest of this section will be devoted to discussing the various types of electronic monitoring, beginning with the earliest phone line systems. All monitoring devices consist of a transmitter that is attached to the offender’s ankle, a receiver, and a pager. The less sophisticated versions have a transmitter that emits a continuous signal up to a 500-foot radius, and the signal is picked up by a receiver, usually attached to the offender’s home telephone. The receiver is programmed to expect the transmitter’s signal during those hours of the day that the offender is supposed to be at home. If the signal is not received when it should be, a computer sends a report of the violation to a central computer. These systems are not able to track offenders’ whereabouts once they leave home. Given the drawbacks with the early systems and the increased need to track offenders away from home, a variety of other means of offender tracking have become available, including remote monitoring and global positioning satellite devices (Greek, 2002).
Remote location monitoring systems provide offenders with a special pager that can only receive incoming calls from the probation officer. When the pager beeps, the offender must call a central number within a designated period of time (e.g., 15 minutes). Voice verification ensures a positive match between the voice template and the voice on the phone. The computer records whether or not the voice matched and the phone number where the call originated. Some remote location monitors that offenders carry emit signals that may be intercepted only by the probation officers who carry the matching portable receiving unit. This enables officers to drive by a residence or workplace without the offender’s knowledge to verify his or her whereabouts.
When the military allowed Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to be available for civilian use, it became the tracking method of choice for offenders that posed a higher risk to public safety. Offenders carry a transmitter that picks up the offender’s location via satellite and a receiver that records and transmits data via a phone and a computer. This allows law enforcement to know an offender’s whereabouts at all times (Greek, 2002).