Scray-Brown Gives Surveillance Firm $340 K Not Due It Under Contract

(October 23)  The county this week agreed to pay Sentinel Offender Services, LLC another $340,000 as an add-on to its ongoing three-year, $1 million contract for probationer/parolee monitoring.
According to San Bernardino County Chief Probation Officer Michelle Scray-Brown, “on June 26, 2012 the board of supervisors approved a three year agreement with Sentinel Offender Services, LLC for global position system tracking services. This contract, which took effect July 1, 2012, is currently approved in the amount of $1,000,000. The probation department’s use of global positioning system tracking services as a supervision tool for a variety of offenders, as well as a form of house arrest for high-risk juvenile offenders, is a means of enhancing public safety while reducing costs of the juvenile detention system.”
Curiously, Scray- Brown indicated that Sentinel Offender Services, LLC knew the parameters of the deal it was entering into when it accepted the terms of the 2012 contract.
“On April 5, 2011, the Governor of California signed Assembly Bill 109,” Scray-Brown said. “This legislation shifted responsibility for supervision of low level offenders and the adult parole population from the state to local jurisdictions. Because of this ‘realignment,’ the department’s need for additional services, including global positioning system tracking, increased significantly.” Indeed, Scray-Brown said, it was “as a result” of the realignment that the county entered into the contract with Sentinel Offender Services.
At this point, Scray- Brown said, it has become apparent that Sentinel Offender Services bit off more than it could chew when it agreed almost two-and-a-half-years ago to complete three years worth of probation tracking for a mere $1 million.
“As of August 2014, 8,316 post release community supervision offenders have been released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to the county.
This number is approximately 35% higher than was previously projected,” Scray-Brown said. “In addition, cases have also been received from the court and other counties (573 cases), bringing the total number of  cases to 8,889.”
For that reason, Scray-Brown said, the county should cut Sentinel some slack and not hold it to the terms of its 2012 contract.  “Due to the increased number of post release community supervision offenders, the department now requires a related increase in the contract with Sentinel,” Scray-Brown wrote. The additional $340,000 would be sufficient for the increased contract monitoring services needed through June 30, 2015, the agreement’s scheduled expiration date.”
This clashes with what Scray-Brown said in 2012 when she recommended that the county, which had entered into a probationer monitoring contract with Sentinel in 2005, intensify its arrangement with Sentinel based upon the realignment. As a consequence of Scray-Brown’s recommendation, the county in the summer of 2012 entered into a three-year contract with Sentinel. At the June 26, 2012 board of supervisors  meeting, Scray-Brown, who at that time went by the name Michelle Scray, insisted that  Irvine-based Sentinel Offender Services had successfully outcompeted  CMG Safeguard Electronic Monitoring, Inc. of Fullerton and Rocky Mountain Offender    Manage-
ment Services of Westminster, Colorado for  the contract. At that time Scray indicated  one of the criteria in the competition was “cost. Contract services, in the maximum amount of $1,000,000 over the three year term of the agreement, will be fully funded from either AB 109 revenues or fees collected from referred offenders who pay for monitoring services on a sliding fee scale based on their ability to pay,” Scray said more than two years ago.
This week, Scray-Brown cited no provision in the original contract for realignment prisoner releasee monitoring that specified limits on the numbers of prisoners Sentinel would be responsible for tracking. No such limitation was specified in the public documents related to the 2012 contract.
Deputy chief probation officer Dan Bautista acknowledged that Sentinel had committed to provide global positioning tracking of prisoners released under the realignment through June 30, 2015 and that based on the prisoner releases that occurred under the realignment beginning in 2011, both Sentinel and the county had not entered into a blind arrangement in 2012. Nevertheless, Bautista said, the numbers of releases anticipated under the project at that time “were just projections.” Bautista said Scray Brown had sought greater remuneration for Sentinel “basically because of the increased usage.”
As to whether allowing Sentinel out of the terms of its original contract and conferring upon it a $340,000 increase constituted a gift of public funds, Bautista declined comment.
“Any statement will have to come from our media relations division,” he said.
Chris Condon, the media relations specialist for the probation department said “Basically, what happened was Sentinel was given the contract to monitor as many released prisoners as we needed to have monitored. It could be two. It could be a thousand. The problem is with AB 109 [i.e., realignment legislation], we didn’t know how many more. The Department of Corrections did not give us that information. What ended up happening was we gave Sentinel a three-year contract for a million dollars. In fiscal year 2012-13 we  paid them $429,831. In 2013-14 we paid them a total of $422,314. For the first two years we paid a total of $852,145. That left us with a remaining $147,855 for the final year. We are only three months into the third year and we are now nearly out of money and we have to continue to fund the monitoring program. The board agenda item was to increase the amount of the contract by $340,000. We arrived at $350,000 because the cost of the monitoring is 34 percent higher than we anticipated in 2012. The million dollar figure in the original contract was just a projection. If we had known what the actual costs are, the contract would have been $340,000 higher.”
Despite other indications that Sentinel had taken on the project to provide full monitoring across the board for three years and that under the contract Sentinel agreed, in Condon’s words, “they will provide as much monitoring as was needed for a cost,” Condon said “We can’t enter into a contract in which it would be for an unlimited amount of electronic monitoring… The company would go bankrupt.” Condon said he did not have immediate access to the contract but that a commitment by Sentinel to monitor an unspecified number of released prisoners at a fixed total cost “would not have been included in the contract.”
The county, Condon said, is “billed by them monthly, and we only pay for what we use.”
At present, Condon said 230 to 280 released prisoners are monitored on a daily basis, 90 to 120 of whom are homeless.
According to Condon, 10,982 inmates formerly housed in the state prison system have been released into county custody and of that number, 3,606 are currently out of custody and under the supervision of the probation department. Among those 3,606 are the 230 to 280 being monitored electronically. The cost of monitoring each of those individuals costs between $109 and $110 per month, according to Condon’s calculations.

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