IDOC tracking dozens of parolees, offenders on ankle monitors

BOISE, Idaho (AP) The Idaho Department of Correction uses electronic ankle monitors to track between 30 and 45 people on probation and parole every month, and even that relatively low number of monitors often results in hundreds of alerts every month.

Nationally, at least 100,000 sex offenders, parolees and people free on bail or probation wear ankle bracelets that can issue an alert if they leave home without permission, fail to show up for work, linger near a playground or school or try to remove the device. But alerts can also sound due to dead batteries, lost satellite contact and other factors.

IDOC Probation and Parole Division Chief Henry Atencio says the department had 38 people on electronic monitoring devices during April 2013, and those monitors generated 350 alerts. Each alert must be reviewed, and that job falls to a part-time technician meaning there can be a lag of 12 hours or more between an alert and the start of an investigation, Atencio said.

The first step of any such probe is to determine what actually caused the alert. Atencio cited one recent case in which the agency received a so-called "tamper alert" that could mean an offender tried to remove his bracelet. Instead, he said, that probationer had simply failed to charge his device.

"Once we realized that, the urgency isn't as great," Atencio said. "But we did go and locate him and determine that he did in fact forget to plug the bracelet in."

IDOC uses a passive GPS system, meaning it only downloads information about where a person has been once a day, when the wearer plugs in the device. In addition to the Idaho Department of Correction, other entities across the state sometimes use electronic monitoring for defendants awaiting trial or for people on house arrest. The April sampling included the state agency alone.

All state probation and parole officers who oversee offenders with ankle bracelets have the ability to check the alert system online at any time, but doing so is at their discretion, Atencio said.