When Chief Judge Belvin Perry wrote his administrative order regarding the use of GPS monitoring devices for high-risk defendants, he never envisioned a monopoly in Orange County. But that is exactly what happened. Court Programs Inc. (CPI) was an already present monitoring service that somehow entrenched itself in the court system without going through a bidding process. Now, the company and the courts are under fire.
Perry’s four-page order provided only a loose contract in regard to tracking defendants. For example, there was no strict requirement by law that the service monitoring the GPS tracking device notify law enforcement if a restriction had been violated. It was simply assumed that the company would. Since many of the defendants selected to wear the bracelets were awaiting trials on domestic violence or sex offender charges, this lack of detailed instruction has raised many concerns. In fact, two such defendants fled while being monitored but authorities were not notified in a timely fashion. In another case, an employee of CPI falsely accused a defendant of violating restrictions in order to force payment.
While other counties have a list of monitoring services for defendants to choose from, Orange County never engaged in a bidding and proposal process. And although Perry’s order restricted judges from specifically naming a GPS monitoring service, court records revealed that in more than 550 of 800 cases justices directed defendants to CPI because it was the only known service available. Hence, Orange County appeared to have a monopoly with CPI when it came to outfitting defendants with a GPS tracking device. Because there was no competition, CPI could charge what it wanted and follow its own agenda for notifying authorities.
The average cost for monitoring an individual outfitted with a GPS-enabled bracelet in most counties is between $5 and $9 a day, but CPI charges defendants $12 a day, though it claims that it receives no taxpayer money for its services while other services are subsidized by the government. The courts cannot afford to lose their jurisdiction to a private, independent monitoring company that does not put public safety ahead of its profit margin, which is why it is important to get other companies involved.
Chief Judge Perry is rewriting his administrative order to rectify these issues and build a stronger contract that details the proper and lawful procedures for monitoring. Two monitoring companies have submitted proposals and are awaiting approval. Perry is hopeful that new companies coming in will create a more competitive environment that will lessen the cost and make companies more accountable, giving defendants a choice in their GPS tracking service.