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County continues efforts in home confinement

County officials are continuing their work to boost home confinement use, aiming to cut jail costs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

County officials are continuing their work to boost home confinement use, aiming to cut jail costs.

Commissioners, judges and the sheriff met again last week, examining ways to establish more means of home monitoring, commission president Paul Herrell said.

The county board also appropriated $5,000 recently to jump start the program. The money will be used for monitoring costs or initial equipment or whatever is needed, Herrell said.

"I can see that $5,000 saving several thousand dollars and jail space," he said.

For example, judges can use home monitoring for some offenders, rather than putting them in the jail. That means the jail becomes less crowded and the county reduces its risk of having to house inmates in neighboring county jails – a move that can cost as much as $60 a day, Herrell said.

Sheriff Tim Sexton said Common Pleas Court and municipal court representatives have discussed home confinement for non-violent offender sentencing, or maybe for when they are awaiting trial. The option to use it stays with the judges.

Home confinement means the offender is monitored, and risks sounding an alarm to authorities if they leave the home, the sheriff said.

"We stress the non-violent part," Sexton said. "And what I think it will do is ease overcrowding (at the jail)."

State regulators have eyed overcrowded conditions at the facility, which is out of date. The county has made corrections but says major changes will require a new jail – and state dollars.

Meanwhile, reducing the number of inmates coming into the jail will help, commissioners said.

Ironton Municipal Court Judge Clark Collins has held people in home confinement, for example, and "saved us piles of money," Herrell said.

The county’s $5,000 investment hopefully will boost its use all over the county, he added.

Sexton called home confinement a combined effort of law enforcement and the judiciary that other counties, like Cabell County, W.Va., have found success in using.

"They (inmates) are still under the authority of the court and not out on the streets; and it eases overcrowding and is less expensive," the sheriff said.

The commission is also continuing its work to provide a new lockup, likely years away.

There is a company currently surveying the jail, and the county has several locations it’s considering but no decisions have been made, Herrell said.

"We need to do something, but it will require state dollars."