Commission addresses jail crisis

Published 8:29 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

‘Pilot’ program will test use of ankle monitors

A resolution addressing the current jail crisis was passed by the Lawrence County Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

The commission agreed to start a “pilot” program to test the use of ankle monitors and home confinement as an alternative to putting non-violent offenders into the overcrowded jail, or sending them to other prisons out of the county.

“The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners recognizes that the ability to house prisoners in Lawrence County is a problem. The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners is working with the Common Pleas Court, County Court, Municipal Court, County Prosecutor, County Sheriff and County Auditor in a collaborative effort to develop an alternative to out of county prisoner housing,” the resolution states.

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“The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners desire to fund a pilot program for the courts to be able to use technology to alleviate the costs of housing prisoners outside of the county. The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners would also like to have a monitoring mechanism in place to provide data on the effectiveness of the program, and request that the County Auditor use his office’s technology to do so.”

The terms and conditions of the resolution are that the commission will authorize the use of $9,000 each month from the Medicaid Local Sales Tax Transitional Fund for the Alternative Out of County Prisoner Housing pilot project.

“DeAnna (Holliday) and I have spent a lot of time going over arrest reports on different days to determine who’s in the jail and what types of offenses we’re housing. At least one-third of the prisoners are non-violent drug addicts who would benefit more by being on home confinement and/or some kind of treatment than being in jail,” Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said. “And the ankle monitors are a pretty secure punishment. The probation office is able to draw a line around the house, and the ankle monitors themselves, if you step outside of that line, set off an alarm that not only citizens will be able to hear, but it goes directly to the probation officers 24/7 so they’re monitored all the time.”

Anderson added that while there is a small possibility of additional offenses being committed while on the ankle monitor, the chances are extremely low.

If the ankle monitors are cut off, Anderson said that the offenses to follow would be “pretty severe,” including possible third or fourth-degree felonies, which include escape.

Currently, the cost to transport and house prisoners out of county is around $65 per day per individual. The cost of the ankle monitor is around $15 per day per individual.

Anderson also said that those who are able to pay for the ankle monitors on their own would still be required to do so.

“The numbers we compiled were based on 20 out of county prisoners vs. the same number on ankle monitors over a year’s time,” Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said. “And we have the potential to save more than $350,000 vs. the cost of the program, which is around $165,000.”

The monthly $9,000 allotted for the pilot program will go toward purchasing ankle monitors as well as the adult probation officers involved. When enough data is collected from the pilot program, the commission will determine whether it is worth putting the item directly into the next budget.

“I want to commend the prosecutor’s office and the judges for collaborating in this effort,” Holliday said. “I think this will really end up being a good thing for the county.”

In other action, the commission:

• Approved two floodplain permit renewals.

• Received and filed the Dog Warden Report dated July 7, 2018.

• Received and filed the monthly EMS report for June 2018.

• Approved three appropriations.

• Approved three transfer funds.

• Approved the following for the SOACDF Committee: Bill Pratt, Dick Myers, Jason Stephens, Jodi Rowe-Collins and Peggy Reynolds.

• Approved Bill Allen to the Lawrence County Regional Planning Commission beginning Aug. 1, 2018.

• Approved the status changes of Justin Johnson from full-time paramedic to part-time paramedic, effective July 10, 2018; Quinton Harris from part-time paramedic to full-time paramedic, effective July 15, 2018; Clayton Johnson from part-time EMT to part-time paramedic, effective July 15, 2018; and Virgil Cole from part-time EMT to part-time paramedic, effective July 29, 2018.

• Met in two executive sessions with Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens and Mack Anderson regarding possible litigation. No action was taken on either.