Colorado Startup Aims to be the Alternative for Ankle Monitors

By: Nick Greenhalgh of Colorado Inno

“The overcrowding of Colorado’s prisons is reaching a crisis level.

According to a Denver Post story, at the end of December, just 93 of 14,000 beds remained open in the state’s prison system.

As lawmakers weigh options, current solutions range from opening a shuttered prison, to introducing criminal justice reform legislation.

Whatever the solution is, the problem has been identified.

In the Denver Post story, Dean Williams, the new director of the Department of Corrections, said his biggest goal is lowering the recidivism rate — the rate at which people released from prison go back.

Greenwood Village startup TRACKtech is tackling the issue of recidivism head-on, using a combination of technology and rehabilitation support to do so.

When founder Michael Hirschman launched the company in 2016, recidivism was top of mind, said TRACKtech VP of Business Development Ben Williams.

“He [Hirschman] became passionate about solving the problem of recidivism. Along with that came a realization that punitive approaches in corrections very seldom achieve positive outcomes,” Williams said.

With a past career in public safety, Hirschman saw a better way to monitor and support the large population of people recently released from prison. According to a recent Pew study, one in 55 U.S. adults is on probation or parole.

Teams use TRACKtech at the American Probation & Parole Association Summer Training Institute in 2018. Photo Credit: TRACKtech

TRACKtech’s solutions use mobile technology to provide data-driven monitoring that goes further than a traditional ankle monitor. In addition to locating offenders, TRACKtech’s system offers controlled and monitored internet access, geo-fencing and proximity notifications, and call and text visibility for case managers, among other things.

The platform collects data from the offender to create a “pattern of life” report for the supervisor to analyze.

“We don’t consider this a replacement for traditional ankle monitors, but an alternative to them. With an ankle monitor, you’re able to answer the question of date and time stamp of someone’s location, but it doesn’t speak to behavior. It can’t deliver therapeutic solutions,” Williams said.

The therapeutic solutions are what differentiates TRACKtech most from ankle monitors. With the program, offenders have access to rehabilitative support resources, like job opportunities, access to therapists and food security offerings.

“Our approach is to solve the public safety concern of monitoring and compliance using mobile tech and data analytics to work to provide therapeutic solutions,” Williams said. “With the intent of helping these agencies address the reasons released prisoners fail when they transition back to the community.”

TRACKtech offers a hardware phone solution as well as a more traditional software offering that can be adjusted based on the needs and level of supervision required for the offender.

The company has between 11 and 20 total employees and work with clients in state, local and federal public safety, as well as nonprofits.

As the state looks at ways of addressing the prison overcrowding, Williams said the TRACKtech team understands the impacts and realizes the importance of lowering recidivism rates.

“If you look across the front range, a lot of county jails are over capacity and that has a lot of cascading effects across the affected communities,” he said.

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