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Sex offender who cut off GPS-tracking device raises concerns about Victoria’s prison monitoring system

electronic monitoring

Andrew Darling cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet.

Police have raised concerns that the system used to monitor Victorian prisoners is not working, as the search continues for a sex offender who cut off his GPS-tracking bracelet and walked out of a correctional facility.

Andrew Darling, 42, has not been seen since the early hours of Sunday morning when he walked out of the Corella Place correctional facility at Ararat in the state’s west.

Another sex offender, Sean Carmody-Coyle, 28, managed to escape twice – in June 2013 and also in February this year.

The secretary of the Police Association of Victoria Ron Iddles said the current monitoring system being used at Corella Place is not working.

We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.

Ron Iddles, Police Association of Victoria


“Over the past few months there’s been some problems with these monitoring systems whereby the signal has actually been dropping out, which is of grave concern,” Mr Iddles told 774 ABC Melbourne.

“We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.

“The intention is good, but if the signal doesn’t send a signal at all times or it’s not monitored for some reason then there’s a problem with it.”

Victorian Government frontbencher Matthew Guy said there would be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape.

“Clearly it’s not good enough and clearly there needs to be an investigation into how this occurred,” Mr Guy said.

“I simply say though, that this Government is committed to having more people behind bars who deserve to be behind bars. Our opponents put people back into home detention and people back out on the streets who shouldn’t be there.”

Commissioner happy with system

But Victoria’s Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard defended the quality of the GPS tracking bracelets for sex offenders, telling Fairfax Radio she had no concerns about the system.

“Electronic monitoring is one of a number of supervision tools or dynamic security tools that we use to gather information and monitor the whereabouts of offenders,” Ms Shuard said.

“It is not a single tool on its own. It rests alongside our staff supervision, our case management of offenders, our normal processes for accounting for people.

“It is one of many things put in place.”

She said the bracelets were locked on, but can be cut off “with some effort”.

“We went through an exhaustive process in terms of our procurement of this device, but there’s nothing available that can be put on that simply cannot come off,” she said.

“They have to be able to come off for medical reasons and other reasons, so if the offenders tamper with those we get an alert that let’s us know they’re doing that and allows us to activate a response.

“This electronic bracelet, on early Sunday morning, did exactly what we would expect it to do.”

Ms Shuard said the bracelets were the highest level of restriction able to be placed on offenders like Darling.

“Given they are community members, it is a civil scheme, they’ve completed their sentence and they are subject to these restrictions for periods of up to 15 years.”

Corella Place is a residential facility next door to the Ararat prison, the Hopkins Correctional Centre.

It is about two kilometres from the town centre.

Residents are housed in one-, two- and three-bedroom houses and have a strict curfew, but are taken on escorted trips to nearby towns and to Melbourne.

‘Community safety at risk’: Police Association

Mr Iddles was not sure how Darling cut off the bracelet and said he believed public safety was at stake.

“Obviously there will be some investigation by Corrections and maybe Victoria Police … but we will need to find that (out) so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“I think the community would expect that if you’re out and about with a monitoring system you’d want it to work 100 per cent of the time.

“At times the signal doesn’t go to the monitoring centre, and therefore the person isn’t monitored for a short time.

“The alarms are raised when the signal drops out, but the reality is when they go and check the prisoner’s there.

“So on this occasion when it’s cut off the alarm is raised and they go and have a look but he’s actually gone, and now there has to be a reasonable amount of resources to find him.”

Mr Iddles said Darling was not serving jail time, but is required wear a monitor because he is a serious sex offender.

“My understanding with this particular person is he’s finished his sentence and he’s living in a facility near the jail, and not required to be undergoing a sentence,” he said.

Search continues for Darling

Police are still searching for Darling, who they said had bush survival skills and was known to frequent pubs and bars.

They have told people in the Ararat area to remain vigilant around sheds and outhouses on their properties and to report anything suspicious to police.

The also said anyone who notices stolen food or clothing should contact them.

He is 176cm tall and of medium build, with both ears pierced and tattoos on his back, arms and right lower leg.

Police have warned the public not to approach him, but to call triple-0 immediately if they see him.

Author:  Jan Shuard


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WA legislators fail to pass GPS monitoring reforms

gps monitoring If a criminal cuts off a GPS monitoring bracelet, you might think it’s the equivalent of a jail break.

But Washington law doesn’t see it that way.

Across the state there is a patchwork of rules and regulations covering electronic home monitoring and GPS tracking of criminals. Some county courts may have strict rules governing violations while others may not.

“The big problem we’re seeing with electronic home monitoring is with a lack of standards across the board,” said state Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley).

Last week, a bill sponsored by Sheafailed to make it to a vote in the state Senate. It would have set minimum statewide requirements for public and private entities that provide electronic monitoring of offenders, primarily for city and county courts.

“We can no longer allow people that are sentenced on electronic home monitoring to skirt the system, which is what is happening,” said Shea.

Last month, a KING 5 investigation profiled a 25-year-old Pierce County man who snapped off the GPS ankle bracelet that was supposed to ensure his home detention. The breach went unnoticed for nearly two weeks by the Fife Municipal Court, which runs the program that was supposed to be monitoring the misdemeanor offender.

“I’m not a tagged animal,” the man told KING 5.

Judge Kevin Ringus said the court is investigating the case.

KING 5 also revealed that the sex offender who stole the Victoria Clipper ferry from Seattle’s waterfront last December had cut off his GPS tracking bracelet four times. Records show Samuel McDonough routinely cut it off, or let the battery die, on Fridays. He may have known that the Washington Department of Corrections only monitors its tracking software on business days – not weekends and holidays.

“We expect these criminals to be monitored 24/7. That’s what the expectation of the public is,” said Shea.

Shea said he proposed electronic home monitoring legislation last year after a report by the Freedom Foundation of Washingtondocumented the lack of controls in many communities.

At a hearing in Olympia earlier this year, witnesses testified about concerns over the growing number of for-profit, private companies that are providing monitoring services for the courts, even though those companies may not be fully vetted.

“It doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t set enough standards,” Steve Hopkins of Stay Home Monitoring in Aberdeen said of Shea’s bill.

As the owner of Washington’s oldest electronic monitoring company, Hopkins said he’s seen unethical and fly-by-night companies swarm into the industry. He thinks Shea’s bill should have more teeth to ferret out the bad players.

“I feel the bill was actually rushed. I don’t feel it’s ready for prime time,” Hopkins told a House committee.

A spokesman said Shea plans to reintroduce his GPS legislation next year.


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Indigent offenders driving up cost of county’s electronic monitoring program

A growing number of McLennan County inmates are on electronic monitoring in lieu of going to jail, but the increase means the county is incurring more expenses for indigent offenders who cannot afford to pay for the program.

There now are 65 county inmates on electronic monitoring, the highest number of offenders who have been on the program at one time, according to Ronnie Marroquin, manager of the Waco branch of Recovery Healthcare, which administers the program.

 electronic monitoring The county typically has had about 40 offenders enrolled in the initiative at one time, County Judge Scott Felton said.

The county began the electronic monitoring program in October 2012 as an alternative to jail in an effort to lower the county’s jail population and its costs of housing inmates.

But a significant number of those inmates are indigent, meaning the county has to pick up the cost of their daily ankle monitor service.

Of the 65 on the program, 31 are deemed indigent and the county pays between $7 and $7.50 per day for them to remain on electronic monitoring.

Extra $30,000

The McLennan County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved allocating an additional $30,000 to the program to cover projected costs for indigent offenders through the remaining four months of the county’s fiscal year.

But Felton said the additional costs for the program are more than offset by savings the county receives from not having to house those offenders at the county jail.

“In one way it’s bad news that we have to put more money in there (for electronic monitoring), but the alternative is if the indigent weren’t on the ankle monitoring program they’d be in our jail,” Felton said. “So us subsidizing the ankle monitoring to the vendor is really, in a way, good news.”

The current budget for the program is $49,934, and all but $3,422 has been spent so far, according to figures from the county auditor’s office.

The county spent $61,912 on the program for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

The daily cost for housing an inmate at the county jail is about $50, while the county pays $45.50 per day for each inmate placed at the neighboring Jack Harwell Detention Center, which is managed by private jail company LaSalle Corrections.

The county had about 1,173 inmates Tuesday, including 247 who were at the Harwell Center, said sheriff’s office Capt. John Kolinek, who oversees the jail. Felton said the jail population has been as high as 1,300.

The county spent $5.1 million to house overflow inmates jail last year, $1.3 million more than budgeted, because of overcrowding at the county jail.

Electronic monitoring is only available for low-risk, nonviolent misdemeanor offenders and is given to inmates at judges’ discretion. Inmates who do not qualify for indigent status pay the costs of their own electronic monitoring service, which ranges from $8 to $8.50 per day.

Felton said he expects the number of people on the program will continue to grow as judges become more comfortable using the service as an alternative sentencing option.

“I think the results show that we’re saving money for the taxpayers, yet keeping them safe as well,” Felton said.


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