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State could lose track of tethered felons without technology update

Ankle with tracking monitor on it
Adobe Stock

A technology upgrade that’s supposed to help consumers threatens to shut down the system for keeping track of felons and sex offenders who’ve been released from prison.

The state's Department of Corrections keeps track of 4,600 offenders using electronic tethers. The tethers are attached to Verizon’s 3G network that’s supposed to go dark at the end of the year to be replaced by a 4G network, according to the department's Chris Gautz.

He says the department uses the tethers to make sure offenders out on parole or probation stay away from victims – as well as other places they’re not supposed to be.

“They could be sex offenders. They could be other violent offenders," Gautz said. "People who have restraining orders, things like that, against them. We need to know where they are.”

According to Gautz, if the offenders enter an area they shouldn't be, it pings department officials.

“We can either alert authorities, or call that parolee and say, you need to either get to your parole agent or you need to go home and tell us why you were wandering around in that area where you know you’re not supposed to be,” he said.

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they expect to reach a budget bargain with the governor in time to make sure the tether system is upgraded to match the new technology.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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