U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Data Analysis Has Potential to Improve Community Supervision

Date Published
September 30, 2016

The number of individuals under community supervision—pretrial, parole or probation--who are monitored electronically as a condition of their sentence more than doubled in the 10-year period between 2005 and 2015.[1]

Electronic monitoring relies on offender tracking systems to provide time-stamped location information on the whereabouts of individuals under supervision. GPS-based offender tracking systems are widely used to track the locations of individuals under community supervision. These systems produce a wealth of data, some of it relevant, much of it not. That data-glut can overwhelm the supervising officer. Data analytic software can increase monitoring efficiency by winnowing through the data and organizing it so that the officer is only presented relevant information when they need it.

Data analytic software can also increase monitoring effectiveness. It can provide insights into the individual’s habits and social networks, and potential future actions. Those insights can enable the supervising officer to understand better the individual’s risks, criminogenic needs, the effectiveness of the programs and services provided to address those needs, as well as the degree to which the individual is utilizing them.

Despite the potential for data analytic software to improve community supervision, a study undertaken for NIJ by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at the John’s Hopkins University found that agencies that use these systems do not always factor the analytic software offered by offender tracking system vendors into procurement decisions.

Released in May 2016, this study GPS Monitoring Practices in Community Supervision and the Potential Impact of Advanced Analytics, Version 1.0 (pdf 42 pages) reviews research on the usage of GPS-based offender tracking systems to assess the potential role of advanced analytics to enhance the capabilities of such systems. Included in the study is a summary of the analytics capabilities claimed by vendors for commercially available software.

In November 2016, APL released a second study Geospatial Monitoring of Community – Released Offenders: An Analytics Market Survey Version 2.0 (pdf 67 pages) that provides additional information on the seven products summarized in the first report. This report summarizes and compares the products' claimed analytical capabilities, and includes information on data formatting and information exchange, computing system requirements, and operator/analyst education and training requirements.

The information contained in this study may benefit agencies considering implementing such systems.

The information provided in these studies derives in part from another study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University for NIJ, see Market Survey of Offender Tracking Technologies Gives Agencies a Snapshot of Available Products. Released in May 2016, the study provides information on 13 commercially available technologies provided by 10 different vendors.

These reports provide an overview of commercially available technology at the time of publication. Agencies seeking to implement electronic monitoring systems should solicit additional information from the field before making any decisions.

Agencies seeking to implement such systems may also want to consider NIJ Standard-1004.00 Criminal Justice Offender Tracking Standard (pdf, 131 pages). The standard published in July 2016 provides minimum performance requirements that agencies may want to consider incorporating into their procurement specifications. It was developed for NIJ a special technical committee composed of expert practitioners representing, such diverse agencies as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Harris County (TX) Pretrial Services, as well as scientists and experts in performance testing and conformity assessment. The American Jail Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, and the American Probation and Parole Association, among others, also participated in development of this standard.

About this Article

The work described in the article was supported by NIJ cooperative agreement number 2013-MU-CX-K111, awarded to Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which hosts NIJ’s National Criminal Justice Technology Research, Test and Evaluation Center.

This article is based on the grant report Monitoring Practices in Community Supervision and the Potential Impact of Advanced Analytics, Version 1.0 (pdf, 42 pages).

Date Published: September 30, 2016