Few inmates on electronic monitoring are arrested for new crimes

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Ted Sullivan
Sunday, January 16, 2011
— Rock County Jail officials point to the success of electronic monitoring as a reason to put more offenders into the community on bracelets.

Since January 2007, fewer than 1 percent of Rock County offenders on electronic monitoring have been arrested for new crimes, according to data obtained from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

Fifteen of 2,138 offenders on electronic monitoring have been arrested for new crimes such as disorderly conduct, theft or drug possession, according to arrest reports.

The most serious crimes include felony battery while armed and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

The Gazette filed a request under the Wisconsin Open Records Law for reports stemming from people arrested while on electronic monitoring.

The documents reveal that 0.7 percent of offenders were arrested while in the program, a testament to the success of electronic monitoring and its ability to supervise offenders, officials said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that it will continue to be that low, but we realize we could have a rash of arrests in the next year,” Cmdr. Erik Chellevold said.

The county had an average of 85 offenders a day on electronic monitoring in 2010. At its peak, about 110 people were on electronic monitoring.

The program began in 1998 but ramped up in January 2007 when Sheriff Bob Spoden took office. Offenders who meet certain requirements can serve their jail sentence in the community if they go on electronic monitoring.

The sheriff’s office carefully reviews who can be on electronic monitoring to ensure the community is safe, Sgt. Brent DeRemer said.

Offenders with felony drug, sex or child abuse charges are not allowed on electronic monitoring, he said. Criminal history also is researched to ensure the offender isn’t a risk.

Offenders can wear two different ankle bracelets.

One bracelet is equipped with GPS and tracks the offender’s whereabouts, DeRemer said. The second detects whether the offender drinks alcohol. Some offenders wear both.

The person wearing a bracelet submits a schedule they must follow, he said. The bracelets alert the sheriff’s office if the schedule is broken.

Exclusion zones can be drawn to keep an offender away from locations, such as a victim’s home or taverns, DeRemer said. If the person enters the zone, the sheriff’s office is alerted and can call the offender or send a deputy.

Inclusion zones also can be drawn to make sure an offender stays within certain boundaries, such as a home or work, Chellevold said.

Deputies often check on offenders on electronic monitoring, Spoden said. The checks are spontaneous at all hours of the day.

Officials can monitor the offenders from a computer 24 hours a day, DeRemer said.

Spoden said the technology of electronic monitoring provides for more supervision than Huber dormitory inmates sent into the community every day with work-release privileges.

He said Huber inmates aren’t supervised from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. while out of jail. He said electronic monitoring also is cheaper than housing Huber inmates.

“I think electronic monitoring inmates are more secure and monitored more closely on the bracelet program than they are on Huber,” Spoden said. “This is the wave of the future for incarcerating low-risk offenders who aren’t a danger to the community.”

Chellevold said some offenders recognize the closer scrutiny and complain about being on electronic monitoring.

“We’ve had people out on electronic monitoring who have wanted to come off and be in jail because it’s too restrictive,” he said.

Placing offenders on electronic monitoring reduces the jail population and saves money, officials said. Offenders can stay employed, continue school or stay with their families.

Spoden said alternative programs such as electronic monitoring solved the county’s jail overcrowding situation in 2007 and saved it from paying other counties to house Rock County inmates.

The programs also saved the county from paying for a $56 million jail expansion, he said. The jail population today is below capacity.

Chellevold said the jail is safer for inmates and correctional officers because of the reduced inmate population. He said money is being saved on medical care and food service.

The sheriff’s office wants to continue growing the program in the future, Spoden said, and the Huber program could someday be abandoned.

Last updated: 4:04 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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