Back in June a resident of our Arizona Community Protection and Treatment Center (ACPTC) (one of our civilly committed sex offenders) escaped while he was on an approved pass to go to church.  He was found by Tempe police later that day.  Because of the security issues that the event raised, I asked the staff at the ACPTC and the Forensic Hospital to suspend the pass programs until we can assess what happened and to give us the time we need to review and revise our protocols for approving passes and setting the operational conditions under which they’re approved.  We’ve looked into a number of safety elements over the last couple of months and have landed on the new policies for issuing community passes for the ACPTC and the Forensic Hospital folks.

The new policies are unique to each program but contain many of the same principles.  For example, any forensic patient or ACPTC resident leaving the grounds of the hospital will be required to wear a GPS monitor.  The monitors are about the size of an average cell phone and are attached to the person’s ankle with a strap that completes an electrical circuit when connected.  Using GPS, our staff can locate folks on a pass to within a few feet.  If a person attempts to remove the unit an immediate alarm is sent notifying staff of the tamper attempt.

Forensic patients and ACPTC residents will also be required to complete a level system prior to gaining different off campus privileges.  The lower levels of the system require 1:1 monitoring by staff (who must remain within five feet of the person on all outings).  Intermediate levels allow graduated privileges including lower staff to patient/resident ratios, followed by outings with approved family members or sponsors and finally ending with individual outings prior to release from the program.  At each level patients or residents need to accomplish positive treatment outcomes and spend a predetermined minimum amount of days on each level.  Advancement or reduction of levels requires a review to make sure each person is suited for advancement or reduction.  The policy also includes protocols to inform local law enforcement about the pass so they’re better informed.

We think these new processes will help balance the treatment needs of individuals while balancing the public safety needs for our forensic patients and the civilly committed sex offenders in the ACPTC.