The Carroll County Detention Center could free up 25 beds - and save more than $8,000 a week on housing inmates - thanks to state and county money that is to be used to create a home-detention program for convicted prisoners and those awaiting trial, jail officials said.
The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention has awarded $89,035 for the electronic equipment needed to establish the program, said Maj. Stephen C. Reynolds, assistant warden for administration at the detention center.
During this year's budget hearings, the county commissioners supported the sheriff's pursuit of the grant, providing more than $22,000 toward hiring the staff to run the program.
"We're hooking up the equipment as we speak," Reynolds said this week. The equipment will be tested this week in hopes that it will be ready for use next week, most likely for offenders near the end of a work-release program in which they must spend at least 10 hours a day at the jail.
Twenty-five sets of Home Guard ankle bracelets, made by Behavior Interventions Inc. of Boulder, Colo., would be used for nonviolent inmates and monitored at the jail, where a deputy sheriff and a correctional officer have been assigned to the new Home Detention Unit, Reynolds said.
Prisoners allowed to participate could be required to pay $75 for the program if they are able to. That could generate up to $1,875 a week in addition to the savings on housing costs, Reynolds said.
"We would kick off with first offenders next week," he said, beginning with inmates in the last 90 days of a work-release term. They would be selected by a four-member team.
Until now, Carroll defendants have had to seek home detention in the courts after contracting with a private company.
The sheriff also plans to include in the home-detention program defendants awaiting trial by adding a pretrial home-detention specialist not related to the grant, Reynolds said. The role of pretrial services would be expanded to include recommending to the courts candidates who might, for example, be awaiting trial but jailed for reasons unrelated to public safety, such as the inability to post bail.
"We're trying to control the ever-expanding population of the jail," Reynolds said. "Unless we do some diversion programs, we will not be able to take the kinds of increases looming on the horizon."
This week, 209 men and 27 women were being held at the 265-bed detention center, he said. Usually, he said, about 110 defendants are awaiting trial and about 120 prisoners are serving sentences, he said.
An additional 25 people in the sheriff's custody are housed elsewhere in treatment programs, Reynolds said. The sheriff also plans to expand the Treatment Services Program because at least 80 percent of the prisoners have addiction problems.
In April, the county commissioners gave a cool reception to the sheriff's idea for a new $100 million jail, but they have agreed to apply next year for another grant for 25 more monitors and another staff position.