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Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Careers

N.J. Parole Board's Sex Offender Management Unit

Ankle bracelets, counseling programs and house visits are a few ways the New Jersey State Parole Board's SOMU lowers recidivism.

September 03, 2013  |  by Jack Chavdarian

Sgt. Ryan Andresen conducts a polygraph examination. Photos courtesy of the SOMU.
Sgt. Ryan Andresen conducts a polygraph examination. Photos courtesy of the SOMU.
The New Jersey State Parole Board's Sex Offender Management Unit (SOMU) supervises about 6,000 sex offenders with the twin mission of preventing repeat offenses and helping offenders re-enter society after prison. The unit's sworn officers accomplish their mission with active supervision, the use of GPS ankle bracelets, counseling programs and subsequent arrests for new violations.

The SOMU is made up of 131 officers divided into two sections – the SOMU and the Electric Monitoring Program (EMP). The SOMU is made up of 88 officers and the Electronic Monitoring Program accounts for another 43 officers.

Officers assigned to the north and south SOMU focus on registered sex offenders with violations that include endangering the welfare of children, sexual assault, and failure to register. Paroled offenders with GPS and Radio Frequency (RF) ankle bracelets fall under the purview of the electronic monitoring program.

"The GPS bracelet provides real-time locations for offenders as well as a historical trail," says the unit's Capt. Steven Tallard.

Senior Parole Officer Joseph Leake secures a GPS ankle bracelet on the subject.
Senior Parole Officer Joseph Leake secures a GPS ankle bracelet on the subject.
Offenders come under supervision for the first time directly from sentencing, after release from state prison, or transferring from another state.

Internal control of sex offenders consists of counseling, which incorporates involvement from the parole officer and lie-detection tester. Polygraphs help determine the offender's compliance with supervision conditions. Drug tests reveal the validity of their claims of being under the influence while committing the offense.

In addition to the usual flurry of paperwork inherent in investigative police work, officers assigned to this unit must juggle a variety of other job tasks including visiting offenders in their homes, lengthy searches, interrogations, and arrests. They may meet with the offender's employers; coordinate with police departments; visit jails to interview an offender; and back up fellow officers conducting searches.

Training topics include addressing denial through the polygraph, understanding deviant sexual arousal, cognitive restructuring, and relapse prevention. Other training covers interview and interrogation, developing conditions of supervision, understanding an offender's computer use of social networking or child pornography, and the use of the polygraph.

"Much of the training focuses on counseling as an effective arrangement with the sex offender," Tallard says.

Unit supervisors have been known to recruit members from the police academy, while other officers submit a request to join. A successful officer in the unit must have the ability to work autonomously, must be confident, and have good written and verbal skills. He or she must be observant, analytical, and professional during difficult circumstances.

"The most difficult part of the job is dealing with the damage that the sex offender has done to another human being and the emotional toll it takes on the officer," Tallard says.

An officer in the unit must put aside anything they feel emotionally to best supervise the offender and perform their jobs effectively.

"The goal of supervision is to prevent recidivist behavior and when the officer injects personal feelings into supervision the offender recognizes this judgmental attitude and 'shuts down,'" adds Tallard.

Officer Leake examines the GPS tracking trails of a sex offender. The green dots represent the subject's whereabouts. Placing the cursor over a box brings up the details box as shown. The detail box provides date and time, longitude and latitude, direction traveling, and speed traveling.
Officer Leake examines the GPS tracking trails of a sex offender. The green dots represent the subject's whereabouts. Placing the cursor over a box brings up the details box as shown. The detail box provides date and time, longitude and latitude, direction traveling, and speed traveling.
The officer must maintain communication with an offender to supervise them and ensure information flows freely. The assignment's rewards include knowing a sex offence has been prevented. When an offender does violate parole, the officer must respond to the violation. In New Jersey, a sex offender is under parole supervision for life as part of sentencing for their offense.

Violations may bring curfews, counseling or treatment, electronic monitoring, placement in a residential treatment facility, and imposing more restrictive conditions of supervision, Tallard says.

Offenders can apply to the sentencing court for removal of lifetime supervision, if they can show the court that they haven't committed a crime in 15 years and don't pose a threat to others. This results in far fewer offenders being removed from supervision than added each month—the unit received 710 new offenders to supervise in just the last year.

"Theoretically, an officer can start their career with a certain caseload, stay in that position for the entirety of their career, and end their career with most of the same people on their caseload," Tallard says. "It's a unique and complex relationship."

Editor's note: This special unit profile is the latest in a series of Web-exclusive career profiles on PoliceMag.com. Read more profiles here.

Tags: Special Assignments, Sex Offenders, New Jersey State Parole Board, Parole Boards, Sex Crimes


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Real American @ 9/5/2013 9:17 AM

The Management Unit follows some good techniques to lower recidivism. Do you know how they increase recidivism? By listing a former offender and his/her family on a nanny big government Sex Offender Registry. The "lowering" and "increasing" probably balance out to a net gain/loss of zero.

It makes no sense at all to require that "sex offenders" start with lifetime parole supervision and not do the same thing for nearly every other felony crime. Makes no sense at all. But that is what we have because of the current Sex Offender Witch Hunt in the U.S. It defies all facts and intelligence.

So a person could go to jail for say 1 year and then be under parole supervision for the next 5+ decades? If I were such a person, I wouldn't even start that. I would get out of jail and leave the U.S. to live in a country that hates the U.S. I would be just one more enemy of the U.S.

Tschako @ 9/6/2013 8:20 AM

To "Real American": Your name is a misnomer. It is apologists for sex offenders such as you that facilitate new crimes. Your blanket statements like "defies all facts and intelligence" show that you have neither.
Please leave.

Ima Leprechaun @ 9/8/2013 12:48 PM

I too have a problem with extended after sentence sex offender laws. How can anyone ever truly be rehabilitated if they are still held as an offender for life. If they are any threat to society keep them in prison which makes more sense then letting them out. Monitoring should be done for all capitol crimes and not just sex offenders. An 18 yr old dating a 16 yr old is all that most states need to hang a sex offender tag on someone for life. Less than 10% of convicted sex offenders ever re-offend so where is the justice in these kinds of laws? Obviously, it doesn't prevent any sex crime since sex crimes have never stopped. So there is no argument that this extended at home incarceration works toward any kind of prevention. Although it does make big money for friends of politicians that sell monitoring to the state. Thankfully, readers cannot bar other readers from having an opinion because the debate of these laws needs to happen. Afterall, the USA is a semi-free country.

Real American @ 9/9/2013 10:31 AM

Tschako @ 9/6/2013 8:20 AM: Thank you for showing so quickly that you are clueless.

If YOU need big government, YOU pay for it. Stop forcing people like me to do it.

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