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New portable alcohol monitoring device gains favor in community corrections

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Offenders ordered to forgo alcohol in order to stay out of prison now have a powerful incentive to stay sober – they hold the key to their freedom in their hands.

Marion County and a few other Indiana localities are on the cutting edge of monitoring, having adopted a handheld, portable breath-test device that’s gaining favor among community corrections officials.

Emerge Monitoring’s RADAR – real-time alcohol detection and recognition – is a proprietary technology seen as an improvement over current monitoring that typically takes place at an offender’s home, usually on a set schedule. The new system allows community corrections to send a vibrating signal prompting a user to submit a breath test, results of which are immediately available.
 

breathtest-004-15col.jpg Brian Barton, director of Emerge Monitoring’s Indianapolis office, demonstrates the company’s RADAR portable alcohol monitoring device. (IL Photo/ Dave Stafford)

Also available immediately is the location of the user, because RADAR relays GPS data every time the device is used.

Marion Superior 18 Judge William Nelson presides in one of three Indianapolis courts where the devices are being used. He conveyed the story of a person sentenced to 90 days of monitoring who completed the program without a positive test.

“He asked me to keep him on it,” Nelson said. “He said, ‘Judge, it worked. It kept me sober for 90 days.’ He thanked me for it.”

Nelson’s court is assigned Class D felonies, so he hears a fair number of repeat operating while intoxicated cases. He said those are the bulk of people he’s sentenced to community corrections with orders they submit to alcohol monitoring. About 60 offenders in Marion County are currently using the portable devices.

Before last summer, those people would have used home monitoring. “The home unit is usually scheduled three times a day – when they get up, when they get home
from work, and before they go to bed,” Nelson said.

“With this unit, it’s going to be at least three times a day, but because of its portability, it’s going to be more random,” he said. Community corrections officers may schedule RADAR tests at specific intervals, order random tests or test on demand.

“I prefer this,” Nelson said of RADAR. He said the units are more affordable and afford flexibility and discretion for users who continue to work, for instance. The units are funded through user fees, and in Marion County that can range from $1 to $12 per day based on ability to pay. That’s the same fee arrangement as for home monitoring.

“It’s a constant reminder of their need for sobriety,” Brian Barton said of the device that program participants must carry with them. Barton was director of Marion County’s Community Corrections for a dozen years before joining Emerge as director of the company’s Indianapolis office.

“Marion County has always relied heavily on alcohol monitoring,” Barton said. Because of jail crowding and other factors, he explained, Indianapolis has one of the largest community corrections programs in the nation.

Still, Barton said, “there was a hole in the alcohol monitoring in terms of real-time monitoring.” The home-based units created lag time because results of breath tests had to be downloaded before officials would be notified of a violation.

Notice now is instantaneous. Barton said if a user presents a positive test, additional tests are taken to confirm the result, and violations can include sanctions up to revocation of community corrections and execution of a prison sentence.

At a presentation recently to Marion Superior criminal judges, some expressed concern that the device might be handed off to someone else to administer a breath test. Emerge officials explained that the device contains two independent biometric measures – a breath print and a pulse wave, both calibrated to the assigned user.


breathtest-007-1col.jpg RADAR portable alcohol monitoring device. (IL Photo/ Dave Stafford)

Someone else using the device would trigger a false test alert, Barton said. Emerge officials told judges they were aware of two cases in which a participant claimed in court that someone else had provided a positive alcohol breath test. But when told that allowing someone else to use the device was a program violation, the offenders recanted and acknowledged the positive tests were theirs, company officials told the judges.

Wells County Community Corrections Executive Director Blake Poindexter said the northeastern Indiana jurisdiction was one of the state’s first to test and deploy the RADAR device. “We were looking for a portable device we felt comfortable with,” he said.

“We’ve been very pleased with the accuracy and the ease of use for the offenders,” Poindexter said, adding that the county hopes to phase out its current in-home monitoring system. There currently are about 20 offenders using RADAR devices in Wells County.

The device also allows monitoring of offenders when they violate restrictions on their movements, for example. “Officers in the field after hours can check things out if we don’t have compliance,” Poindexter said.

Like Marion County, Wells County funds its program through user fees. The charge is $13 per day, but the county has established a fund for indigent users. “I did not have to increase that daily amount for newer technology,” Poindexter explained.

Poindexter agreed that the units are beneficial for offenders who want to embrace a change in their substance abuse. “I tell them it’s as much for their protection as it is for the confirmation of the court order.”

When Rush County set the groundwork for a community corrections program that began last July, Director Ashley Stevens said staff members tested the devices. A pilot program is monitoring two offenders with the devices.

Stevens said the device’s portability, real-time reporting and GPS features are among the most useful.

“We’ve worked with several different alcohol monitoring devices,” Stevens said. “RADAR is exciting to us and adds a lot of elements that haven’t been available in the past.”

St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Emerge is a subsidiary of Bankers Financial Corp., one of the nation’s largest providers of surety bail bonds, according to Barton. He said the Emerge technology represents part of the company’s efforts to reinvent itself.

He said RADAR offers a combination of technology that’s unique in the marketplace and easily adaptable to work with interlock devices installed on vehicle ignitions to require breath tests.

“I foresee a time that RADAR will be the device that we watch clients with,” Barton said. “It allows people to go to work, have a family and strategize to stay out of jail or prison.”•

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  • Accuracy
    I am wondering how accurate this is? I believe a person that committed a crime against me and my family is suppose to be using this device. He is a career alcohol and drug abuser and he is in a different county far north In. Is there a way to fool the system ?

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  1. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  2. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

  3. Low energy. Next!

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  5. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

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