Location Monitoring/Home Confinement (Tether Program)
A Supervision Tool- Location Monitoring/Home Confinement
Home confinement is a location monitoring tool that helps U.S. Pretrial Services Officers supervise or monitor defendants in the community. In the federal courts, home confinement is not a sentence in and of itself but may be a condition of either probation, parole, supervised release, or pretrial release. A person placed under home confinement is confined to his or her residence, usually linked to an electronic monitoring or GPS system and required to maintain a strict daily activity schedule. When the person is allowed to leave home, and for what reasons, is determined case by case. Home confinement’s purpose depends on the phase of the criminal justice process in which it is used. In all cases, it is a means to restrict a person’s activity and to protect the public from any threat the person may pose. In pretrial cases, home confinement is an alternative to detention used to assist in ensuring community safety. Home confinement is not used as a punishment for individuals on bond. However, Courts may use home confinement as a sanction for persons who violate the conditions of their supervision.
A person placed under home confinement is...usually linked to an electronic monitoring or GPS system.
The home confinement program in the federal courts has three components or levels of restriction. Curfew requires the program participant to remain at home every day at certain times. With home detention, the participant remains at home at all times, except for pre-approved absences such as work, school, treatment, church, attorney appointments, court appearances, and other court ordered obligations. Home confinement benefits the courts because the costs is much less than incarceration. Consequently, court may order persons placed under home confinement to pay all or part of the monitoring costs. Home confinement also enables defendants to continue to contribute to the support of their families and pay taxes.
The Officer’s Role
Close supervision by officers is a crucial component of the home confinement program. Supervision helps deter further crime, ensure the safety of the community, and bring order to the defendant’s life. Officers monitor program participants to ensure that they are working, maintaining a stable living arrangement, and not engaging in prohibited behavior such as substance abuse. Officers also check monitoring equipment at least monthly to make sure it is working properly and to look for signs of tampering. The officer’s job is demanding, time-consuming, and sometimes dangerous. It requires frequent phone calls to make sure participants are adhering to their approved schedules; frequent unannounced face-to-face visits; and 24-hour 7 day response to alerts from monitoring centers.
Officers screen defendants to determine eligibility for home confinement. Certain categories of serious or repeat offenders are not recommended to participate. When considering eligibility for home confinement, officers must factor in prior criminal record, history of violence, medical and mental health needs, previous failures on supervision, risk to the public, third-party risk, and the person’s willingness to participate. With electronic monitoring the residence and telephone service also influence the decision. The cooperation of all occupants of the home is essential. The person in the household who subscribes to phone service must be willing to allow the phone to be used for electronic monitoring purposes, which places restrictions on access to the phone and on special features such as call waiting.
Success or Failure?
For persons placed under home confinement, how well they comply with the conditions set expressly for them determines whether they succeed. Program participants who do not comply with the conditions of their supervision may face sanctions ranging from reprimand, loss of earned leave privileges, or revocation proceedings. The most serious violations include violations for new criminal conduct, violations that compromise public safety, and absconding from supervision. Violations that concern the home confinement program in particular include not adhering to the approved leave schedule, going to an unapproved location or activity, and tampering with equipment.
Electronic Monitoring and GPS
In most cases, U.S. Pretrial Services officers use electronic monitoring or GPS technology in supervising persons placed under home confinement. With electronic monitoring the individual wears a tamper-resistant transmitter on the ankle or wrist 24 hours a day. The transmitter emits a radio frequency signal that is detected by a receiver/dialer unit connected to the home phone. When the transmitter comes within range of the receiver/dialer unit, that unit calls a monitoring center to indicate that the person is in range or at home. The person must stay within a specified distance of the receiving unit to be considered in range. While electronic monitoring detects and reports the time a person enters and exits his or her home, GPS makes it possible to actually monitor the person’s whereabouts in the community. With GPS the individual is required to carry a tracking device. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts contracts with monitoring companies to provide equipment and around-the-clock electronic and GPS surveillance to U.S. pretrial services offices nationwide. The monitoring centers provide daily reports that document program participants’ activities 24 hours a day. They also track all key events and report them promptly to the officers who supervise persons on home confinement. Key events include equipment tampering, unauthorized absence from home, failure to return home after an authorized absence, and leaving home early or returning home late. Key events also may be triggered by equipment malfunctions and loss of electrical power or phone service. Participants must notify officers immediately if they lose electrical power or phone service, if they remove the transmitter because of an emergency, or if they experience any problems with the monitoring equipment.