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Halifax County has implemented the Criminal Justice Information Network Program to monitor defendants on pretrial release for domestic violence abuse and assault cases through GPS satellite tracking.

Chief District Court Judge Brenda G. Branch in November of 2020 mapped out the process to implement the system with fellow judges W. Turner Stephenson III, Vershenia B. Johnson and Teresa R. Freeman.

In January of last year Branch signed a memorandum of understanding for the District 6 Domestic Violence Monitoring System.

Law enforcement, judges, representatives from Hannah’s Place as well as representatives from Monotec last week discussed the implementation.

(Besides the judges, those attending the last week’s session included Chief Magistrate Cynthia Pitchford; Magistrate Judy Smith; Magistrate Michelle Rogers; Magistrate Cecilia Sanford; Magistrate Christopher Kidd; Hannah’s Place Outreach Coordinator Kaynetta Taylor; District Attorney Office Legal Assistant Chuck Hasty; Roanoke Rapids Police Captain Jamie Hardy; Littleton Police Chief Phillip Trivette; Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Corey Dixon; Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mo Zughbi; Monotec Program Administrator Dylan Duppin; and District Court Access and Visitation Coordinator Latoya Simmons.)

Branch said under the program a defendant in a domestic violence or assault case can be ordered to wear a GPS electronic monitoring bracelet either by agreement or through a direct order from a judge.

The victim or petitioner will receive an electronic device application that will warn them of a violation of the court order, permitting them an opportunity to implement a plan of safety if the offender is nearby.  

The warning is based upon the proximity of the defendant to the victim/petitioner and the no contact provisions of the court order. 

Monotec will provide the GPS technology to monitor the system, provide the personnel to put on and remove the GPS bracelets, deliver the electronic monitoring devices to the victim or petitioner and notify law enforcement of any violations. 

Law enforcement personnel will call the victim in the event of a violation and will investigate violations along with deciding whether a court order has been violated and if charges will be necessary.  

In 2020 the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds to award a grant to the department of public safety.  

The grant was used to provide funds to the organization Caitlyn’s Courage to conduct pilot programs in niner judicial districts to provide GPS monitoring systems as a condition of pretrial release for crimes related to domestic violence and assault. 

Caitlyn’s Courage is a non-profit organization founded in 2019 by Logan Whitehurst, the sister of Caitlyn Whitehurst of Pactolus. Caitlyn was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Christopher Garris, while leaving the home of her parents on May 13, 2019. 

After killing Caitlyn, Garris died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  

To date the organization has provided funds to build safe houses for victims of domestic violence abuse, domestic violence awareness and to provide education and assist victims of domestic violence.

Caitlyn’s Courage reported from the pilot project that between December of 2020 and March of 2021, that 37 people had been arrested for inclusion zone violations along with 25 tampering with the device and/or battery related violations. 

As a report of the pilot program,state lawmakers approved funding to provide the North Carolina Electronic Monitoring & Victim Notification Program on a statewide basis.

Branch, Stephenson, Freeman, and Johnson will determine which new cases meet the conditions for pretrial release and will closely monitor any cases assigned to the CJIN program with the assistance of Monotec and members of Halifax County law enforcement agencies. Brian Simmons, who is a retired law enforcement officer from the area, was tapped by the Halifax County Court System to become the local Monotec agent. He will  will install and distribute the GPS monitoring devices. 

The goal, Simmons said, is to “help provide peace of mind and protection for victims of domestic violence.” 

Stephenson will monitor the program for district court and the newly hired superior court transition coordinator will monitor the CJIN Program for superior court.