A program that allows offenders to serve their sentences at home while being able to go to work or school is set to expand.
Johnson County Community Corrections plans to get as many as 40 more monitoring devices — ankle bracelets with GPS tracking — to increase the number of people judges can place on home detention.
All of the 110 devices the county currently has are almost always in use, Community Corrections Director Jason Cranney said.
Offenders convicted of certain crimes can opt to serve their time at home with a judge’s approval. This allows them to continue being employed and attend treatment services, while saving the county the cost of incarceration. The GPS devices provide for minute-by-minute monitoring, with corrections employees receiving instant alerts if offenders are in places they aren’t supposed to be, he said.
Johnson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Loyd described himself as a fan of the home-detention system as an alternative to jail time but said those efforts have been hampered as the county runs out of devices on a regular basis.
Monitoring devices for home detention can be used in a wide variety of circumstances, Loyd said.
While a low-level offender can be sentenced to home detention instead of jail time, the devices also are used to help transition people who have been convicted of more serious offenses, such as burglary, to life outside of jail, he said.
Another situation where these devices can be used is before a suspect goes on trial if the person isn’t able to afford bond to get out of jail. A judge can reduce or eliminate the bond in exchange for the defendant going on home detention, Loyd said.
Not only does that keep someone on tighter supervision than if they had paid a bond, it makes it more likely that the defendant will be able to afford his own attorney, which saves the county the expense of paying for a public defender, he said.
Factors Loyd considers when determining if someone is a good fit for home detention is if the person has stable house, a job or ability to get a job and if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
“The whole goal of community corrections is to help people be productive citizens, and the home-detention program is successful because we can hold these people accountable but help them be productive citizens,” Cranney said.
Offenders are often required to take part in drug treatment, education or counseling programs, as well as submit to drug tests and random visits from community corrections staff. A home-detention sentence typically ranges from six to 18 months, he said.
The additional devices will be funded by a $35,000 state grant along with the funds offenders pay to be on home detention, Cranney said.
Offenders are charged $140 a week to be part of the program. The funds are used to maintain the devices as well as purchase new ones, he said.
“It is a win-win for everybody,” Cranney said. “They get to be home and support families, and the taxpayers don’t have to pay for it.”
Community corrections won’t have to hire any extra staff to monitor the additional people on home detention, he said.
The extra oversight provided by the GPS monitoring ensures that offenders are abiding by the rules of home detention, Loyd said.
“They don’t stray very far without us finding there is a problem,” Loyd said. “If someone cuts an ankle bracelet, we know immediately.”