Cook County probation officials are making a technological upgrade for juvenile probationers, implementing 24-hour monitoring for those on house arrest.
Up until now, young offenders placed on electronic home confinement faced only part-time monitoring, enforced manually by juvenile probation officers doing in-home checks. The round-the-clock monitoring of these offenders will now be handled by a private company based in Irvine, California, reports Chicago's WMAQ-TV.
Why the sudden change in monitoring juvenile offenders?
Assault Spurs Changes
Unfortunately, the new monitoring policy was brought on by an assault which occurred while a Cook County juvenile offender was supposed to be on house arrest. Aaron Parks, 17, allegedly assaulted a pregnant college student September 10 while he was wearing a home monitoring bracelet, reports WMAQ.
The prior system required probation officers to manually check the bracelets for non-compliance, but this new system will "send an email alert for each instance of non-compliance to the electronic monitoring probation officer, all three supervisors, and the Deputy Chief Probation Officer." Since placing juveniles on house arrest (especially when they are young) is an ideal form of punishment, this new 24-hour alert system can make sure offenders are really at home.
But there's some tension between the probation officers and the County over the decision to farm the monitoring duties out to Sentinel Offender Services, a private vendor in California. Union leader Jason Smith remarked that this outsourcing is "going to have to be discussed with the union."
Home Monitoring Generally
For young, first-time, and non-violent offenders, home detention and monitoring may be an ideal alternative to jail. Sometimes house arrest is even offered to those who may be particularly vulnerable in the general prison population like criminal informants or those with chronic illnesses.
Even DUI convicts can receive home monitoring in lieu of jail or prison, and specialized monitoring bracelets keep continuous watch over the offenders' blood alcohol levels. This won't be the case for most juvenile house arrestees in Cook County, whose bracelets will largely monitor their locations.
Hopefully with this new system, no innocent victims will be hurt by a juvenile probationer "playing hooky" on house arrest.