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The Ankle Monitor Strategy 

Charles Maldonado wears an ankle monitor to learn how the Orleans Parish Sheriff's office tracks offenders

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Ursin suggests a case could be made that the quick arrest of the 13-year-old after Quintanilla's May 29 murder demonstrates the program's efficacy. According to police, the suspect's alleged accomplice, arrested minutes after the shooting, told officers about the monitor.

  "The police got information that one of the perpetrators ... had an ankle monitor," Ursin says. "So we called up the address of the crime, and the time, to see if one of our clients was in that area."

  Using that data, police found the 13-year-old within hours of the killing.

  Police have ready access to the monitoring software, Ursin says. If, for example, there is a rash of burglaries, officers can check to see whether any known offenders wearing monitors were nearby at the time.

  "It's a crime analysis tool for us," Ursin says.

June 4, 12:09 p.m. – 2:14 p.m., car and office

  I'll see my movements tomorrow when I check back in with OPSO, so I decide to take my monitor for a ride — and to violate the terms of my fictitious contract.

  First, I eat lunch at the wrong place, a pizza restaurant near Orleans Parish Prison. At noon on a weekday, it's filled with cops, sheriff's deputies and lawyers — all of whom, I either observe or imagine, notice the telltale bulge near my ankle. Oddly, I'm embarrassed about it.

  I drive the monitor across the Industrial Canal and into St. Bernard Parish, turning back at the intersection of Judge Perez and Ventura drives.

  I get back to the Gambit office in Mid-City at 1:48 p.m. I'm in an "exclusion zone," and I have to charge the device for two hours per day or it will turn off. If its batteries get too low, I'll hear from someone at OPSO. If it turns off, I might see a cop.

  At 2:14 p.m., I get a phone call from Devlin, who not only knows I'm in the exclusion zone, but also that the device is being charged. Later, I'll take it on the Algiers ferry, drive to Jefferson Parish — another exclusion zone — and then turn back. I wonder if they'll be able to track me on the ferry, particularly with all the radio (and cell) traffic on the river.

The value of the monitoring program as an investigative tool doesn't resolve questions of whether it is appropriate to have previously violent arrestees — even juveniles — on an ankle monitor in the first place.

  How are these decisions made? Are certain types of offenders more likely to receive monitored release without specific geographic boundaries? Are some not eligible at all?

  Bowman, the DA's spokesman, says only that prosecutors will not make plea deals that include monitored release if they think it's unsafe to let a defendant out of jail. Beyond that, he says, it's entirely up to the judge. "The District Attorney's Office has no role in that decision," he says.

  Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty, who has told media outlets that he's barred by state law from discussing the case, set the monitoring terms for the 13-year-old accused of murdering Quintanilla. Doherty gave the suspect a curfew and required that he attend school but set no geographic restrictions.

  It's impossible to tell whether the restrictions imposed by Doherty were appropriate, because the suspect's name hasn't been released and under state law, his records are sealed. We don't even know what he was charged with in Doherty's court or, for that matter, whether Serpas' claim that he had a lengthy violent record is accurate.

  While she can't speak to the specifics of this case, Kaplan of the Juvenile Justice Project notes that juvenile courts collect data on how many monitored offenders fail to meet their obligations or reoffend. That data is applied to a constantly evolving risk assessment instrument, which helps judges determine who should be detained, monitored or released.

  "I think that, in general, the data is showing that the judges have been making appropriate decisions," she says.

June 5, 10:30 a.m., Intake Proces- sing Center

  "I see you took a little lap around your house last night," Fox says when I return to have the device, no longer itchy so much as painful, removed.

  At 10:05 p.m., right after my curfew, I walked two blocks from my house, turned back, then walked four blocks in the other direction, stopping for about 30 minutes at a bar — another violation. I hoped it would register. It did, as Fox shows me on a satellite image of my neighborhood.

  Then he adds, "How was the ferry ride?"

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