On September 18, 2023, the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act becomes effective. Some of the Act’s pretrial release provisions involve electronic monitoring of criminal defendants. The Office of Statewide Pretrial Services (OSPS) recently rolled out a monitoring program covering most of Illinois. Here to discuss that program is OSPS Director Cara LeFevour Smith.
By Cara LeFevour Smith, Director, Office of Statewide Pretrial Services
On Sunday, August 20th, after months of detailed planning and preparation, the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services (OSPS) enrolled the first defendant onto our active GPS electronic monitoring program. And on Monday, August 21st, we began the process of assuming responsibility for the approximately 200 existing electronically monitored individuals in the 70 counites we currently serve. By September 18th, active GPS electronic monitoring will be available to all OSPS counties at no cost to the county, and at no cost to the defendant.
While pretrial and probation electronic monitoring programs have long existed at the county level, never in Illinois history has a pretrial electronic monitoring program been offered by a single agency across 70 Illinois counties covering 36,281 square miles. An incredible amount of work has gone into building OSPS' electronic monitoring program so that OSPS may further serve courts across Illinois, protect victims and communities, and support the pretrial success of monitored defendants.
Electronic monitoring technology has evolved considerably since its invention in the 1960s by Harvard psychology students and twin brothers Robert and Kirk Gable. They originally intended the technology for use with juvenile offenders to encourage and reward compliance with various appointments. “The purpose, though, was to give rewards to the offenders when they were where they were supposed to be, that is they were in drug treatment session, or went to school or a job, and if then we would signal them that they were eligible for a reward,” explained Robert Gable, in a 2014 interview with National Public Radio.
Since then, electronic monitoring has grown in its sophistication as well as its use and popularity. Electronic monitoring serves a variety of purposes with community corrections populations, including pretrial, probation and mandatory supervised release/parole. It has been used as a tool to reduce jail populations, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to monitor domestic violence and other high-risk offenders.
With community corrections populations, the original technology used radio frequency signals to detect whether someone was in their home or not. Today, with active GPS technology, supervising agencies, including OSPS, receive GPS points every 60 seconds on monitored individuals and every 30 seconds if a person is in violation of electronic monitoring zones.
OSPS’ 24/7 Operations Center receives, tracks, and attempts to resolve all alerts and alarms received in connection with its electronically monitored population. Alarms and alerts range from a low battery, which can be remedied by instructing the defendant to charge the device, to an exclusion zone violation, which requires a law enforcement response and immediate notification to the victim or protected person. OSPS will also be alerted for everything in between, including loss of GPS signal or indications a defendant is tampering with the device. OSPS has worked diligently on detailed protocols that direct responses to every alarm and alert type.
The Pretrial Fairness Act provisions of Public Acts 101-652 and 102-1104 contain various provisions applicable to the pretrial use of electronic monitoring, including that if ordered, it be deemed the least restrictive condition necessary to “reasonably ensure the appearance of the defendant for later hearings… or to protect an identifiable person or persons from imminent threat of physical harm.” (725 ILCS 5/110-5(g)). If electronic monitoring, GPS monitoring or home confinement is ordered, the Court “shall set forth in the records the basis for its finding” and “shall determine every 60 days” whether the condition remains the least restrictive condition necessary. (725 ILCS 5/110-5(h), (i)). Defendants on home confinement, with or without electronic monitoring are required to be given “custodial credit for each day he or she was subjected to home confinement… and the Court may give custodial credit to a defendant for each day the defendant was subjected to GPS monitoring without home confinement.” (725 ILCS 5/110-5(h)). In addition, persons ordered to “pretrial home confinement with or without electronic monitoring must be provided with movement spread out over no fewer than two days per week, to participate in basic activities... ‘days’ means a reasonable time period during a calendar day as outlined by the court in the order placing the person on home confinement.” (725 ILCS 5/5-8A-4(A-1)).
Managing a large electronic monitoring program across 70 Illinois counties presents us with many operational challenges, including managing the extraordinary amount of data we receive from monitored individuals. In the first few days our program has been “live” we have received hundreds of alerts and alarms for the 37 individuals we are now monitoring. All alerts and alarms have been resolved without the need for law enforcement involvement. But it is just a matter of time when we will need the assistance of our law enforcement partners across the state to respond to serious violations. We are committed to doing all we can to offer an excellent, state of the art and reliable electronic monitoring program to the courts and communities we serve. Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions about OSPS pretrial services, including electronic monitoring. OSPS’ Electronic Monitoring Unit may also be reached at 217-280-5872 and firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to serve as Director of the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services.