Why There Are Monitoring Gaps In Ankle Bracelets Worn By Parolees And Probationers

More than 100,000 parolees and sex offenders in the country wear ankle bracelets. A new report found that some law enforcement agencies don't always respond to bracelet alarms because of unclear protocols on how to handle a high number of alerts.

Electronic ankle bracelets are used to track an offender’s location by sending radio signals at pre-programmed intervals.

Jason Clark with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says depending on the offense, wearers may be under house arrest, restricted from leaving a certain jurisdiction, or have a curfew.

“You have courts say for instance, someone has been granted bail. The judge may require that that defendant use electronic monitoring so they can have a little closer supervision.”

He says wearers of electronic monitoring bracelets agree to certain conditions that allow offenders the monitored freedom.

“The agency operates a 24 hour command center. Anytime that there is an alert on that bracelet, say for instance the person cuts it off, that’s going to send an alert directly to that command center, which in turn could potentially cause a warrant to be issued for that person’s arrest.”

But an investigation by the Associated Press found that numerous agencies were lax in responding to alarms set off by the bracelets, and some don’t have clear protocols on how to handle the number of alerts. Dennis Potts is the assistant director of Harris County pre-trial services. He says such devices are a good thing to have, but they’re only a tool.

“The device itself is a tool that offers you information as a supervising officer, and it can be used to help shape the person’s behavior. But it remains a tool, it does not make judgment.”

Of the 21 agencies that responded to the AP inquiry the 230 parole officers with the TDCJ said they handled over 900 total alerts per day in April.