Electronic Monitoring Ankle Bracelets can Lower Prison Population, Save Money

By: Meghan Dwyer
By: Meghan Dwyer

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Since 1992 Kane County has saved 16 million dollars by electronically monitoring defendants instead of sending them to jail.

The program costs 375,000 dollars a year and eighty defendants have ankle bracelets at any given time--bracelets they pay for themselves.

Since August the Winnebago County Board has been considering bringing a program like it to Winnebago County.

However, There are still lots of questions left to be answered. 23 News traveled to Kane County and has been investigating what it would take, if it is cost effective, and if it is really safe.

Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said, "Reality tells us that some people that are better off locked up than out whether it's on electronic monitoring or whatever."

Only five of the 382 people who have been monitored this year in Kane County have committed another crime with the bracelet on. This program's success comes from effective monitoring.

If there are people that need to be checked on when an alarm goes off, you need to have somebody to send. Putting ankle bracelets on people instead of sending them to jail can cut down on jail costs. Some of those costs have to be transferred elsewhere--in Kane County that meant hiring more probation officers.

Five probation officers monitor everyone with a bracelet on and someone works around the clock making sure domestic violence offenders on GPS don't go near their victims.

The Winnebago County sheriff is skeptical.

Meyers said, "When you throw out raw numbers of like 65 dollars a day to house somebody--six dollars a day on electronic monitoring--you have to be careful with that analysis."

For example: even if the defendant paid for his own bracelet the jail still has to pay for everyone else including the lights, the overhead, and the cost of corrections officers--some costs won't change.

Meyers said, "its six dollars a day plus you have to make sure you add up all the pluses because the taxpayers are the ones who pay for those pluses. If you were to go on electronic monitoring somebody would have to physically put it on your ankle. That takes personnel."

However, it's a program that has been so successful even Winnebago County's judges think it's a good idea and they are the ones who would be deciding who gets a bracelet.

Chief Judge Janet Holmgren said, "We’ve offered the invitation and that's pretty much as far as we can carry the ball if you will."

Holmgren also says she thinks electronic monitoring could be especially helpful for juvenile cases. With an ankle bracelet on a child could still attend school while waiting for his case to get through the courts. The public safety committee of the Winnebago County board will meet informally tomorrow morning to further discuss the judges' proposal.

The proposal is seven pages long. Some of the things being considered are having 250 people a year on electronic monitoring and establishing a special electronic monitoring division in court services. The current proposal would cost no more than 300 thousand dollars.


ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- With the population of the Winnebago County Jail at an all-time high there's been a lot of discussion about what to do.

23 News Reporter Meghan Dwyer visited Kane County to find out how they lowered their jail population and saved taxpayers millions of dollars at the same time.

Director of Special Programs for Kane County Court Services Mary Smith said, "We became hugely overcrowded in our jail. We had to find some way to alleviate the overcrowding."

In 1992 Kane County started electronically monitoring people charged with crimes. Instead of going to jail they get an ankle bracelet.

Smith said, "It allows people to stay out in the community as well so they can be with their families, they can continue raising their children, they can continue working, and they can keep their homes. It’s a win-win for everybody."

Since it started, Kane County has saved 16-million dollars. To stay out of jail you have to pay for your own ankle bracelet. A judge decides what kind of device to put you on and tells you where you can and can't go. If you break the rules probation officers will get an alert--a text message or an email--and the bracelet will vibrate.

GPS monitors can cost anywhere between six and fifteen dollars a day. They track your every move. Electronic bracelets are more common and less expensive.

Smtih said, "Whenever you're out, whenever you're near windows, whenever you are in most buildings, it finds a way to find you and so you can see the points where the individual goes."

The GPS bracelets track your movement in real time. The electronic monitor bracelets require you to stay within a certain area. Domestic violence offenders are put on GPS and monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kane County monitors about eighty people at any given time. On average the suspects are monitored for about 80 days while they wait for their court case to end.

It’s important to note that these people are monitored before they have been found guilty of anything. It’s just a way to lower the jail population while people wait for trial or for their case to settle and it's not just for people who have less serious charges. Right now, Kane County has gGPS on one person who has been charged with attempted murder.

Reporter Q&A:

Q:Could this really work here in Winnebago County?

A: Right now it seems like it could. We've talked to the sheriff and some local judges. Tomorrow night we’ll look at what it would take for this kind of program to be successful in Rockford. It’s all about whether it could save money and whether the public would still be safe. Right now it costs about 65-dollars a day to house an inmate in the Winnebago County Jail.


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