SPOKANE, Wash.— Electronic bracelets have saved Spokane area taxpayers $140,000 in the past six months, but they are only tracking five inmates. Viewer concerns prompted 2 On Your Side to investigate why more electronic monitoring is not being used.
Jail workers said the short answer is because they are very selective regarding who gets into the electronic monitoring program.
However, taxpayers like Duffy Moon was shocked to learn that only five of the 945 inmates are wearing electronic ankle bracelets.
“There should be a whole heck of a lot more people on it instead of crowding our jails,” added Duffy.
Jail staff said they understand why some people might alarmed by the ratio. Yet, they maintained that their priority is making sure your family is safe.
“We're keeping the people in jail that need to be there,” said Ron Cunningham who works as a case manager with the Spokane County Jail.
The electronic home monitoring program was brought back to the Spokane County Jail about six months ago. Budget cuts shutdown the system in 2010 when the system was tracking about 40 inmates.
Current Spokane County Jail staff said its quite the process to place electronic bracelets on inmates who do not need to be in jail. The decision making all starts with a judge according to authorities.
“They have to be authorized by the court first,” said Cunningham. “Once they are, there's a screening process to determine if they're appropriate to be in the community.”
The screening ensures no violent offenders will slip through the cracks. Authorities also look at criminal history and severity of their offense. Inmates selected are the least likely to cause problems according to corrections workers.
Authorities track their every movement and are immediately notified if they are not in pre-approved locations.
Case managers admit the number of participants is low, but said that means so is the risk to this community.
“I couldn't sleep at night if I thought I was putting someone out there that was a risk of hurting somebody,” added Cunningham.
The current five inmates with bracelets are all serving time for driving offenses involving alcohol.