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Bail monitoring goes high-tech with voice verification

By Peter Small, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

Voice verification, used in conjunction with GPS monitoring, is proving to be an effective way to monitor compliance of people with bail conditions prohibiting them from leaving home without a surety, says Steve Tan, partner with Recovery Science Corporation (RSC).

It’s one of several innovative services that increase compliance with stringent bail conditions, Tan tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Our program continues to evolve to meet the court’s needs,” says Tan, whose company offers GPS and alcohol monitoring services across Canada.

Where the term of bail is “house arrest unless in the direct company of a surety,” RSC uses an automated voice-verification system that allows sureties to validate their identity just before they accompany the accused out of their residence, Tan says.

It’s a further risk management tool, just like the GPS monitoring itself is a risk management tool. With GPS monitoring, an accused will be aware that a violation will be detected and reported to the police, thereby enhancing deterrence.

With the voice verification system, the accused will be aware that if he/she leaves the residence without the surety when required, that violation will also be detected and reported to the police.

"The voice-verification system then also serves as a deterrent for the surety to fulfil their responsibilities as surety,” he says.

The voice-recognition software follows the same premise that banks use to authenticate the identity of their customers, that being: your voice is your password, says Tan.

Normally, when an accused is under house arrest and is wearing a GPS bracelet, a zone violation is triggered when they leave their residence, Tan says.

However, when an accused is allowed to leave the residence accompanied by a surety, that surety can provide a voice sample on short notice. The surety is prompted to repeat a random five-digit number upon calling a toll-free number and entering their assigned ID number. If the sample matches the surety’s voiceprint, scored automatically by a computer program, RSC stands down on the alert while the bracelet continues to monitor the accused’s movements, Tan says.

Crown counsel are sometimes sceptical of bail release plans and express concerns that sureties won’t ensure they are followed, says Tan.

“Voice verification, as well as other components of the program, have evolved in our response to satisfy concerns raised by the Crown,” Tan says.

When RSC first became involved in criminal bail monitoring in 2010, it had a small caseload. Sureties would simply phone the company to notify it when they were accompanying the accused from home.

But as RSC’s caseload grew — the company has now monitored 470 bails — such one-on-one reporting became impractical, he says. “So we came up with pairing this voice verification system up with our GPS monitoring.”

One of the system’s advantages is that the accused doesn’t have to follow a set schedule, Tan says. “People can make changes. We’re only restricting the accused as much as the court restricts the accused."

If the accused is only allowed to leave home with a surety for specific purposes like work, medical appointments or meetings with lawyers, RSC can verify that they are only attended the permitted locations, he says.

When RSC first started monitoring bails, one accused was required to phone the police officer in charge of supervising his bail whenever he went out with his surety. “And I remember the response from the officer was, 'I don’t want to be taking calls from this guy all day long for each and every leave,'” Tan says.

The voice verification system was a timely solution, freeing police officers from such encumbrances, he says. “We have vastly improved on an archaic system.”

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