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Officials say inmate bracelet program is working

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published April 20, 2007, 9:38 a.m.)

In an effort to reduce the population of the Walworth County Jail, the sheriff's department started using electronic home monitoring bracelets last July.

So far, it's worked.

Of the 37 inmates who have used the system, four have had their privileges revoked and were returned to jail, Jail Administrator Mike Schmitz said.

"If I remember, there was one alcohol violation of all those people, which was a major concern when we instituted the program," Schmitz said.

The bracelet and home monitoring equipment the sheriff's department uses requires the inmate to submit regular breath tests and make sure they are within range of the base unit at required times.

Only non-violent offenders can be allowed electronic monitoring. Types of crimes include second-offense drunk driving, theft, identity theft, bail jumping, not paying child support, fleeing an officer and drunk driving that caused injury.

"We've turned down 82 people due to the criteria that we've developed," Schmitz said. "We'll screen them if they can or can't (use electronic monitoring). It is not as high a demand as I thought it would be, but we still have enough people to continue to run the program."

The program is self-sustaining because electronic monitoring inmates pay Huber Dorm fees without being in the jail, Schmitz said. Inmates do need to spend at least one week in the Huber Dorm before being considered for a bracelet.

The sheriff's department can now have up to 13 inmates with a bracelet but is looking to expand the program to 20 to 25 inmates, Schmitz said.

"I'm satisfied with our results," he said. "We've had no major violations, really. We haven't had anyone do any other crime. I attribute that to our screening process. We're very careful in monitoring who we put out on it right now."


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