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More ankle monitors

Harris County will try using ankle monitors on some inmates as a way of reducing the jail population.

The program, approved unanimously by Commissioners Court last week, is the county’s latest stab at thinning the jail population. As of Wednesday, the county had 9,850 inmates, including 978 being held in other Texas counties or in Louisiana due to lack of space at the downtown lockups.

“Ankle monitors for certain prisoners make a lot of sense so that we don’t have to bring them into the jail and use up jail cells for them,” County Judge Ed Emmett said. “The frustrating thing is, that idea’s been around for years. Finally, we’re getting to it. It’s about time, and I’m glad we’re doing it.”

Electronic monitoring is common but rarely has been used in lieu of a jail sentence, said Caprice Cosper, the county’s director of criminal justice coordination. Last year, 883 people were monitored electronically by the county’s Supervision & Corrections, Juvenile Probation and Pretrial Services departments.

Hey, it’s a Caprice Cosper sighting! I was beginning to think she’d been shipped to another county, too.

The pilot program will run until Sept. 14. County officials then will consider whether to expand it, said the sheriff’s chief administrative officer, John Dyess. Ideally, offenders would be given their monitors at court and never booked into jail, Dyess said.

Choosing who is sentenced to house arrest and fitted with a monitor will be up to the two County Court-at-Law judges and two District Court judges who signed up for the pilot program.

Interestingly, this story does not mention another pilot program from January, in which some inmates who work outside the jail were fitted with the monitors. I presume that must have gone off without any major incident, as it would seem unlikely that Commissioners Court would approve any further experimentation if it had. That program was run by the Sheriff, whereas this one is being done in the courts. Like that one, this won’t make a big dent in the inmate numbers – it’s still the same old same old that has not yet been adequately addressed – but every little bit does help. I wish them success with this test.

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One Comment

  1. Al Clarke says:

    This is another band-aid effort in dealing with the jail population issue in Harris County. The County needs to take several coordinated actions to address the jail population. These include but are not limited to the following:
    the judiciary needs to utilze the pretrial services release program more robustly by releasing accused defendants on personal bond;
    law enforcement needs to utilize citation release so many defendants never arrive at the County Jail for booking and subsequent release;
    law enforcement and the courts should divert those with serious mental health issues to facilities better equipped to deal with such issues; and
    the courts should utilize alternatives currently available to avoid incarceration of probationers who violate their probation for non-law violations (ex. dirty urinalysis, failure to report, non-payment of fines and fees, failure to attend/participate in counseling. and other non new crime violations).

    Helping manage jail resources is partially the responsibility of the courts and the courts in Harris County have been negligent in this role. Besides who really thinks Caprice Cosper, a former District Court Judge and one of those who was part of the problem on the bench, will really effect change in Harris County.

    Kudos to the Sheriff for trying to reduce the population of sentenced inmates, but this effort will not have any significant impact in the numbers of folks detained in the Harris County Jail.

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