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Cook County Begins 24-Hour Tracking of Juvenile Offenders

Friday, September 19, 2014

series of NBC 5 Investigates stories has prompted Cook County probation officials to take action.

The department confirmed Friday it has began the giant leap of implementing 24 hour monitoring of juvenile offenders who have been placed on electronic home confinement.

For years the monitoring has only been part-time, maintained by juvenile probation officers who had to periodically do manual checks on the offenders to whom they were assigned, making sure they were where they were supposed to be.

The monitoring will be performed at a remote center in Irvine, Calif., operated by the County's vendor, Sentinel Offender Services.

The revelation that offenders were not watched on a full-time basis came to light when kidnapping and assault charges were filed against a 17-year-old Aaron Parks, who was wearing a home monitoring bracelet at the time he allegedly assaulted a pregnant Chicago State University student on Sept. 10.

"Instead of officers having to check their computers, Sentinel 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," said Rose Golden, the Director of Probation and Court Services. "This is a significant improvement to the process."

Previously, the periodic checks were only made by officers while on-duty, meaning young offenders went unwatched as long as 16 hours a day.

"This means that if officers are performing other duties outside the office when the alert comes in, management can step in to take action," Golden said. "This can include contacting staff who are in the community to investigate, and attempt to resolve non-compliance."

The probation officer assigned to Parks was placed on temporary suspension.

The union representing the probation officers assigned to home monitoring complain that moving to 24 hour surveillance should have been given to them, not the vendor, since they have decades of experience in keeping watch over the County's most youthful offenders.

"That's going to have to be discussed with the union," said Jason Smith, president of AFSCME local 3477. "Because that's our work."

"We need to have some input about what's going to take place," he said. "Why take that work from us? We do the work. We do a good job."

After Parks' arrest last weekend, Golden announced a total review of the program, along with the suspension of the officer who had been given responsibility for keeping watch on Parks while he was free.

"I believe they're using this officer as a scapegoat," said Smith. "They need someone to blame for this incident."

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