State to begin regulating home-detention companies

They must have equipment to send alarm if detainee strays

June 30, 1999|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Private companies that run home-detention programs will be regulated by the state starting tomorrow.

The rules approved by a legislative committee yesterday include a provision that requires companies to use equipment that will instantly send an alarm when someone sentenced to home detention strays.

That provision, added by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, means some companies will have to upgrade their technology or leave the business.

The rules proposed by corrections officials would have allowed companies to monitor detainees by making random phone calls, as some do now. Lawmakers said the proposal did not go far enough. They insisted that companies use such methods as electronic ankle bracelets or satellite systems to track home detainees.

"The issue here is not whether you're going to put people out of business. It's about keeping the public as safe as we can," said Del. James W. Hubbard, the Prince George's County Democrat who called for the hearing.

Hubbard noted an incident this month in Prince George's County in which a man under the supervision of a home-detention company was charged with firing a bullet that killed a woman as she was hanging curtains in her Capitol Heights home.

Six private monitoring companies, which previously operated without state oversight, will now have to meet standards to get a license. They also will have to report all violations of home-detention orders.

The General Assembly passed legislation last year ordering corrections officials to write regulations to govern the industry, which tracks an estimated 400 offenders and suspects.

The private monitoring is separate from a state-run program that supervises approximately 400 people sentenced to home detention. In addition, hundreds of other offenders are in county-run home-detention programs.

Judges typically give convicts or suspects on pretrial release a specified period in which to sign up with a monitoring company. Home detainees are required to pay the cost of the supervision.

Lawmakers have criticized that system, noting that offenders have an incentive to hire the companies that provide the least supervision at the lowest price.

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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