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MDOC: Fear of tethers “going dark” put off for another year; still need to fund ASAP

illustration of person wearing an ankle tether
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The Michigan Department of Corrections says it will be able to keep its tether program up and running through 2020. The program tracks an estimated 4,000 people on probation, parole, and supervised release. 

Verizon was scheduled to change its wireless system at the end of 2019, and the department didn’t have the money for new tethers. Now, Verizon is holding off until the end of next year, which means the tethers won’t “go dark” after all. 

“We still don’t have the funding,” said Department spokesman Chris Gautz. “If Verizon had not have moved back a year we would have been in a very bad situation.”

Gautz said in an interview that lawmakers seem to understand the urgency of the problem, and he hopes they will put together a supplemental spending bill for the tethers; preferably by the end of this year or first thing next year.

“We don’t want to be in this same position next year where we’re wondering whether or not we’re going to have enough time to replace the tethers before the end of the deadline,” he said.

Gautz said the equipment takes time to order and come in. Then, once they have the tethers, more than 100 field offices have to go through the process of swapping out the equipment on thousands of people.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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