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Review of MDOC electronic monitoring...

Review of MDOC electronic monitoring raises response concerns

By: Sarah Ulmer - June 20, 2023

(Photo from MDOC Facebook page)

A recent legislative PEER report found issues in the electronic device alert systems, resulting in inconsistent reporting from MDOC officers.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, better known as PEER, recently released a review of the electronic monitoring oversight by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).

View the full report here

Electronic monitoring is used to observe offenders by transmitting electronic data through programs like Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). This monitoring is used when an offender is under state custody but living and working in an approved alternate location. According to the review, roughly 956 offenders are admitted to ISP yearly.

In the last six years, the MDOC Community Correction Division has maintained and managed a case load of over 36,000 offenders. Of the total number they manage, the division is required to electronically monitor 4.5%, or 1,618 offenders.

In order to maintain the electronic monitoring, MDOC has contracted with Sentinel Offender Services (LLC) since 1998. This company provides the physical devices as well as the data and information needed to monitor an offender’s activity.

These monitoring devices alert Sentinel based on the offender’s behavior. Alerts are sent to MDOC staff in specific instances, such as the leaving of a designated area or the tampering of an electronic monitoring device.

The review was requested after an offender participating in the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP), or house arrest, was involved in the death of a cashier at a convenience store. The individual was wearing an electronic monitoring device at the time and had a prior felony conviction for burglary and larceny of a dwelling in 2018. The offender had been placed on five years of post-release supervision.

When he violated his post-release supervision, he was ordered to serve two-years in ISP instead of being incarcerated. It is expected that at the time of the incident his device was not activated or charged.

The PEER report reviewed MDOC’s responsiveness to notifications between October 2022 and December 2022. The committee considered key alert categories in three groups: no GPS signal, unapproved entry/leave, and electronic monitoring device tampering.

It was found that the No GPS signal was successful at a 56% rate and the Device Tampering cohort had a 53% successful response rate. The Unapproved Entry/Leave, however, resulted in a 0% successful response rate.

The report found that an overall positive response rate could only be noted in 25% of the key alert notification instances through the Caseload Explorer Database. This includes whether or not MDOC acknowledged an alert coming from Sentinel. Only 15% of instances using data for all key alert notifications by the cohort found a positive response rate.

The average time for a key alert notification response was 55.96 minutes.

The report concluded that while MDOC officers may be responding to a higher number of key alert responses, they are not consistently documenting the responses within the databases. Because of this finding, PEER recommends that MDOC increase training for officers on electronic monitoring administrative protocols and seek more technical assistance.

In the event changes are not made, the PEER report advised that the Legislature could consider amending state law to cap the total eligible number of offenders that participate in the program or allow the code section to be repealed.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: