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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

State Could Lose Track of Tethered Felons Without Tech Update

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Reginald Hardwick

A technology upgrade that’s supposed to help consumers threatens to shut down the system for keeping track of felons and sex offenders who’ve been released from prison. Electronic tethers that keep track of offenders could go dark at the end of the year. 

The state corrections department keeps track of 4,600 offenders using electronic tethers.

Chris Gautz is with the state Department of Corrections. He said the tethers are attached to Verizon’s 3-G network that’s supposed to go dark at the end of the year to be replaced by the 4-G network.

He said the department uses the tethers to make sure offenders out on parole or probation stay away from victims – as well as other places they’re not supposed to be.

“And if they enter into that area, it immediately pings our electronic monitoring center, so we know where they are," said Gautz. "We can either alert authorities, or call that parolee and say, you need to either get to your parole agent or you need to go home and tell us why you were wandering around in that area where you know you’re not supposed to be.”

Prisoners from all backgrounds are affected.

“They could be sex offenders," said Gautz. "They could be other violent offenders. People who have restraining orders, things like that, against them. We need to know where they are.”

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they expect to reach a budget bargain with Governor Gretchen Whitmer in time to make sure the tether system is upgraded to match the new technology.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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