Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Techno-Corrections & Juvenile Offenders

Amazing how the juvenile justice system continuously lags behind the adult system by 10-15 years or so. Looks like GPS monitoring of kids is shaping up to be another Eureka! moment in juvenile corrections.

Ankle Monitors Make the Grade in Texas.

It began in Midland as a successful way of keeping kids in school, and now its spreading across the state. A program in Midland uses ankle montiors (sic) to track truant kids, and that has court authorities all over Texas sitting up and taking notice.

On Monday morning, the Midland County Commissioners Court re-approved the grant of about $200,000 for the tenth year in a row.

With a 95 percent success rate, their phone has been ringing from counties from all over Texas, wanting to know how they can start a similar program.

Now granted, this story is from a local t.v. station out in Texas, so I don't really expect them to qualify what "95 percent success rate" actually means, but here's how it works:
Juvenile offenders from 10-17 years of age qualify for the monitors, but so far, Midland has only used these monitors on Jr. High and High School students.

Depending on their sentencing, students wear the tracking device between 30-180 days.

"The student keeps the monitor on for as long as we feel like they need it. If they can show a pattern that they've gotten themselves back in order and attending as required, then we'll take the monitor off," Henry said.

They're water proof, light-weight, and virtually indestructable (sic).

"It's an extreme step to take, but for the outcome, I think it overwhelms the actual, in tandum (sic), what it may look like," Henry said.

I'm not sure I understand that last statement, but apparently, authorities will keep juvenile truants in these anklets indefinitely. And check out these outlandish ancillary effects.
The ankle monitors track where you are and where you've been, but the most surprising thing about this technology isn't the affect is has on the one who wears it, it's the affect that it has on other students.

"One monitor afffects (sic) 15-20 other students because the students see the monitor on, and they're like, 'Oh, I don't want that. What do I have to do to stay out of Judge Cobo's court?'" Henry said.

But then officials got an unexpected result.

"The parent/child relationship was an unseen success for the program, because when we put the child on the monitor, it also requires the parents to have a certain level of accountability," Henry said.

Parents have some added responsibility too. They're required to notify staff members if the child goes out of the allowed zone.

"We saw families, parents, and kids coming closer together after they've been wearing the monitor," Henry said. "And parents have been extremely receptive to the idea. They like it, they see it as something they need in order to get their kids back on track like they should."

So in addition to making other kids stand up and want to be counted (in school), this Lo-Jack for teenagers also helps form a more perfect parent/child relationship, and I'm sure their grades have benefited as well. [cough]

Seriously, the increasing use of technocorrection technology (particularly GPS tracking devices) is where we've been headed since the early 1990's. But electronic monitoring was designed for the worst of the worst adult offenders (mainly sex offenders) as a punitive measure of probation and/or parole.

The idea that we would apply this to juveniles and truants, for a status offense, is incredible, but hardly surprising. The kind of "gushing" about monitoring truants in the story above is reminiscent of the uncritical acceptance of juvenile Boot Camps and the mushrooming of "Scared Straight" programs back in the 80's and 90's.

And like those, I'm sure fitting truants with GPS technology will end up in the panacea dustbin as well.

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