New ankle monitors alleviate jail overcrowding

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Reinforcements have arrived at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office to help fight the battle against jail overcrowding and keep an eye on criminals.

When the jail population peaks in the summer, the struggle to keep criminals incarcerated gets even tougher. However, 60 new ankle monitoring devices arrived and were sent out for the first time Thursday.

While in the long-run jail officials have made it clear they will be asking for a new type of jail with more space to help with overcrowding, right now they are counting on the new monitoring devices to keep more eyes on offenders.

Fifty of the devices are GPS units and the other ten are units that monitor alcohol consumption.

The alcohol units along with roughly 400 of the older units use landlines and do not have GPS capabilities.

The rest of the new arrivals can be tracked wirelessly and even used by sheriff's deputies to send messages.

"Electronic monitoring is a cost effective way to take hundreds and hundreds of prisoners out of that actual incarcerated environment in a very fiscally responsible way and in a very safety-responsible way," Major Charmaine McGuffey said.

McGuffey says ankle monitoring devices cost taxpayers $9.50 per day while incarceration is around $65 per day.

Cpl. Bryan Hale runs the electronic monitoring unit that keeps an eye on offenders. He says before the new shipment, their shelves were often bare.

"The court is routinely putting people on electronic monitoring," he said. "We're running out of units. We're not able to meet the demands. Some of these people would stay in jail as a result of that until we got a unit available for them."

He says the devices give judges more options and help with jail overcrowding.

"I'm glad they're getting more. I was glad to hear that," Judge Lisa Allen told FOX19.

Judge Allen often uses the devices for non-violent drug and alcohol offenders. She says she also uses them for domestic violence cases because the GPS technology can send out text alerts to alleged victims.

"It makes me as a judge feel better to know they're being watched and monitored," Allen said.

The new units cost $1,420 a year to lease not counting supervision or maintenance costs. McGuffey says the total for the units came to $90,000 which was paid for out of the county's general fund.

The sheriff is currently working to get additional funding for more units.

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