In 2011, a workgroup comprised of the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS) and New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) representatives attended a meeting hosted by the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). In the course of this meeting attendees discussed the 2009 murder of four police officers: Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards in Washington State by an absconding parolee (see also 7 Rules for Code 7 on p. 18). Though it is unclear whether such a tragic, complicated incident could have been prevented, it soon became very clear that regardless of how it happened, there was indeed an immediate need for greater information sharing between law enforcement and community corrections.
In an initial pilot project with NYSIC, participants developed an automated information exchange that would provide important intelligence information to local law enforcement on potentially dangerous probationers/parolees transferring to the state of New York. The exchange has since been replicated in Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri and Wisconsin. APPA and ICAOS continue to promote the exchange and encourage participation from all state fusion centers.
Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS)
It all starts here. ICAOS represents a compact between the states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to utilize a standardized set of rules for the transfer of adult probationer/parolee supervision across state borders.
The development of the most recent compact was motivated by incidents like the murder of a 24-year-old graduate student, Stephanie Tuthill. Tuthill was killed at the hands of Dante Paige, who had been sent to Colorado to participate in a halfway house program without that state’s knowledge. Prior to his relocation, Paige had served a mere 22 months of a 20-year sentence in Maryland for crimes of assault and armed robbery. Further exacerbating the debate, he had no family or other known support in Colorado, and his transfer occurred without any notice to that community. On February 24, 1999, Tuthill, an upstanding college student, returned to a burglarized apartment and was subsequently raped and murdered. Her mother, Pat Tuthill, has been an avid activist and advocate for ICAOS and has appeared on MSNBC.
ICAOS relies on the Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS), a nationwide information system, to track all probationers and parolees authorized to relocate across state lines. The ICOTS system was developed and introduced in 2008 and includes over 30,000 authorized users. It processes more than 150,000 transfers per year, and more than one million transactions, for more than 120,000 active supervision cases. Though agencies vary in how they process their transfers, ICOTS access reaches as far down as the front-line probation or parole officer.
The responsibilities of state fusion centers
Fusion centers originated as a response to 9/11, with the intent to improve information sharing across justice and intelligence communities. There are now more than 70 fusion centers throughout the country that are tasked with compiling and sharing potential threats among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.
Though areas of focus may vary, fusion centers facilitate information sharing in relation to public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health and critical infrastructure protection. Owned and operated by state and local entities, these centers also receive support from federal partners.
New York is host to the initial pilot project of the Offender Transfer Notification Service (OTNS) and represents one of the earliest states to develop a fusion center, known as the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC). NYSIC, like other fusion centers, gathers, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence information throughout the state. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was executed between NYSIC and ICAOS, and the OTNS information exchange was implemented in September of 2013 in alignment with the principles of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative.
NYSIC shares information with local police departments through its email distribution. Known as the WIRE (Weekly Information Report and Exchange), it goes to sworn personnel within New York State police agencies and is comprised of more than 1,800 email addresses, including more than 800 field intelligence officers (FIOs) who serve as liaisons between local police departments and NYSIC. Over 700 transfers of potentially dangerous probationer/parolees to New York have been disseminated in the past two years, an average of about 11 transfers per week.
OTNS has since expanded to include notifications to the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC), the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC), Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), and the Wisconsin Statewide Information Center (WSIC).
APPA is also actively engaged in discussions with the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Rocky Mountain Information Network (RMIN) which includes participation from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Further, APPA continues to reach out to prospective fusion centers associated with the National Fusion Center Association (NFCA).
Looking at data extracted from ICOTS, the number of transfers associated with this information exchange varies by state with an average high of 19 per week to California, to a low of one on average to less populated states like Montana and Wyoming. Figure 1 (page 25) is color-coded by the average number of transfers per week to a given state. States such as California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida each receive in excess of ten potentially dangerous probationer/parolee state transfers per week, denoted as high priority states for the exchange.
Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and South Carolina each receive on average five-to-nine transfers per week, while the other remaining states receive on average less than five transfers per week.
How does it work?
The exchange process is straight forward. ICAOS, through ICOTS, provides information on potentially dangerous probationers and/or parolees to state fusion centers in a universal format (XML) that can be reformatted and packaged accordingly by the respective fusion center.
State fusion centers, in turn, disseminate this information to local law enforcement agencies (Figure 2). The exchange is a one-way, fire-and-forget strategy in which the flow of information is one-dimensional. No information is returned to ICAOS, though APPA and ICAOS provide assistance if data errors or anomalies are discovered.
In terms of the actual information shared, notifications vary in content based on the needs and desires of the fusion center. Currently, the exchange provides data elements to identity the probationer/parolee, including pictures and aliases, sending state, and the individual’s address. It shows whether is affiliated with a gang, if they are a registered sex offender, their current case status, NCIC code and description, and finally contact information for the assigned community supervision officer.
Minimal cost, maximum efficiency
The ultimate goal in involving more states into the OTNS is to promote public safety, officer safety, and collaboration between law enforcement and probation/parole agencies. Costs are minimal, requiring only the signing of an MOU and a destination server to which data can be securely transferred. Law enforcement agencies and state fusion centers are encouraged to participate and take advantage of this new intelligence information made available by ICAOS. ■
Adam K. Matz is a research associate with the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), an affiliate of the Council of State Governments (CSG). He recently completed his dissertation and doctoral requirements in criminology and criminal justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has authored and coauthored various publications, which have appeared in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Criminal Justice and Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.