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October 4, 2013

OU Spatial Analysis group develops tools to monitor Oklahoma offenders

NORMAN — Helping Oklahoma offenders transition from inmates to productive members of society is a challenge the University of Oklahoma Center for Spatial Analysis was up for while developing a suite of tools to monitor Oklahoma parolees.

With funding provided by the National Institute of Justice, OU partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to create a web-based tracking analysis application, TRACKS, that will offer more than GPS points and help parole officers in the supervision of offenders.

The OU team consists of May Yuan, professor in the OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; Atsushi Nara, geospatial scientist; Marguerite Keesee, sociologist; William Greenwood, IT analyst and web developer; Meredith Denney, graduate research assistant; and Grant Floyd, graduate research assistant.

Location-based offender monitoring systems are widely adopted in Oklahoma and other states as a cost-saving alternative to incarceration for low-risk offenders.

Yuan said the system the Center for Spatial Analysis is developing is different from existing monitoring systems in that it should provide advanced analysis of parolees’ movements and track spatial and temporal patterns.

“The ultimate goal of the project is to help parole officers be more effective,” Yuan said. “Different officers may have different case loads, and watching GPS points on the screen isn’t their job.

“They are trying to get offenders to successfully complete the rehab process. The more we can do to help the parole officers do that, the better.”

TRACKS will provide paroles officers with a variety of tools to monitor behavior, including daily offender movement, geographical features, a social network of potential parolee interaction, hot spots of crime, crime scene correlation and daily alert reports.

Daily offender movement may allow parole officers to determine if a parolee has deviated from normal behavior and violated a term of their parole.

Yuan said that a parolee may stop at a liquor store or a sex offender may stop near a school; TRACKS would present this information to a parole officer.

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