Brown favors home detention Sheriff urges the adoption of electronic monitoring system

May 31, 1992|By Brian Sullam | Brian Sullam,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- Sheriff John Brown would like the county to start a home-detention program to ease overcrowding at the jail and reduce the cost of incarceration.

On Friday, in an effort to move the project ahead, Brown invited county government and judicial officials to a briefing by BI Industries, a provider of home-detention services.

"We are now at capacity at the jail, and even with the new expansion we are not going to have enough space," Brown said.

The jail's capacity is about 120 inmates, but Brown says inmates have had to sleep in the hall when there have been 112 inmates.

Part of the reason is the layout of the jail. Brown said he can't put men in the women's section, and he can't put the regular inmate population in the segregation wing.

The department has received approval to build an 80-bed addition, but work hasn't started. Even if it started this summer, the beds wouldn't be ready for at least another year.

In a home-detention system, low-risk prisoners and some of those awaiting trial would wear ankle bracelets with electronic equipment that allows their movements at home to be monitored.

Jock Waldo, a BI salesman, said the ankle bracelet transmits a radio signal to a receiver in the offender's house. The receiver communicates through phone lines to BI computers in Anderson, Ind., and Boulder, Colo.

If there is any interruption in the signal, the computer immediately detects it and notifies BI personnel. They, in turn, contact the government agencies responsible for keeping track of the offenders.

BI is currently monitoring about 5,000 offenders in Michigan, North Carolina and New York, Waldo said.

The cost of monitoring would be $6 to $8 a day; the cost of keeping an inmate in the Carroll County Detention Center is about $45 a day.

Brown has said he would like to charge inmates on the home-monitoring system $10 to $15 a day.

"I am never going to be able to have the jail pay for itself, but I am interested in saving as much money for the county as possible," said Brown.

"We can save the county a significant amount of money, depending on how many judges send defendants out with these bracelets."

At the briefing, Waldo said the best way to guarantee that the home-monitoring system works is to pick the right people to be put in home detention and to have a quick and certain response for those who violate the system.

He said drunken drivers and people who have committed misdemeanors and minor offenses are the best candidates.

Of the people currently on the BI system, Waldo said, 60 percent to 70 percent have committed "minor offenses."

Most are on the system 60 to 120 days.

Waldo said home monitoring works best when agencies respond quickly to any violations.

"The inmates know there is this hammer -- more jail time -- hanging over their heads. Most people are interested in successfully completing the program," he said.

While admitting that no system built by humans is "foolproof," Waldo said that "every time someone has tampered with our devices, it has been detected."

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