Defective Monitoring Bracelets Used on Faribault Inmates
State prison officials at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault knowingly used defective ankle bracelets on some low-risk inmates, deciding that if offenders were not aware that the malfunctioning equipment could not track them, there would be "minimal" risk to the community, according to sources familiar with the decision.
Defective bracelets were recently given to "a few" offenders who live and work at the minimum-security housing unit known as Dakota, these sources said, a facility with 88 inmates which is outside the main fence but on prison grounds. Some of Dakota's inmates participate in work crews that perform maintenance on parks, roads, and other locations in the community.
A Department of Corrections spokesman would not confirm that any issue with the bracelets existed, how many bracelets were defective, when they would be replaced, or whether inmates that participated in work crews in the community were given the malfunctioning trackers.
"The DOC cannot give out specific information about status of specific security systems or individual security devices that are employed in our facilities and in the communities, to do so could put the public at risk," John Schadl, communications director for the Dept. of Corrections, said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Tuesday.
The full statement appears at the end of this article.
Schadl added that Minnesota's prisons use various methods, in addition to the electronic radio-frequency ankle bracelets, to monitor inmates, "to ensure that offenders are accounted for at all times."
Tim Henderson, an official with AFSCME Council 5 who represents the state's 1,950 correctional officers, said in a phone interview of the decision to use defective ankle bracelets, "It's a gamble. You're taking a chance. Do you gamble with public safety?... I personally would stop the program until I get it fixed."
Captain Neal Pederson with the Faribault Police Department said his officers were not told of the defective ankle bracelets. While he acknowledged that he would have liked to have been notified, Capt. Pederson said he did not know enough to say if the community was at greater risk because of the prison's decision.
Watch our story above to hear from Faribault residents about the prison's security system breakdown.
Here is the full Department of Corrections statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS issued July 24, 2012:
"The DOC cannot give out specific information about status of specific security systems or individual security devices that are employed in our facilities and in the communities, to do so could put the public at risk.
MCF-Faribault currently has 88 offenders in its Dakota Unit which is rated as a minimum security unit and is not enclosed by a fence. Most of these offenders are scheduled to be released into the community in less than a year, and the DOC observes them closely to see if they exhibit behavior that would indicate they would be a threat to the community after release. If this is the case, the DOC has options to deal with those behaviors. Those options could include, extending the period of incarceration and requiring additional programming or treatment.
Currently, 15 of the offenders housed in the Dakota unit participate in the Institution\Community Work Crew program, which allows offenders to perform community service as part of a supervised work crew. This program is only available to offenders who have demonstrated that they do not pose a threat to the community and are also due to be released in a short period of time. These work crews are always accompanied by security staff and are under constant supervision while in the community.
Five years ago, the DOC did begin to employ electronic monitoring technology to keep track of many work crews in our communities. This technology is not used on every crew member; its deployment is a tactical decision. While electronic monitoring aids our efforts, it is not a replacement for the constant supervision by staff, which is the primary tool we use to ensure that offenders are accounted for at all times."
John Schadl, Communications Director, Minnesota Department of Corrections