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Home confinement program supported by officials

April 03, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Magistrates, probation and law enforcement officers and commissioners from Jefferson and Berkeley counties agreed Tuesday night that the home confinement program designed by a Boulder, Colo., company will save the counties money and give law enforcement officers another tool to add to their arsenal.

A representative from the company, Behavioral Interventions, was on hand to answer questions concerning the program.

"I think we've got to do it, and we've got to do it now," Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said.

The Berkeley County Commission will discuss the program at Thursday's county commission meeting and possibly sign a contract with the company, commissioners said Tuesday.

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Only individuals involved in misdemeanor offenses and nonviolent crimes are eligible for the program, which confines the inmates to their homes and keeps track of them by a monitoring device, an ankle bracelet. If the person leaves home, an alarm sounds.

Law enforcement is then notified to go to the home and the person is taken to jail.

"The taxpayers are not going to pay more for incarceration. The other side is that we have to run the program tightly. The community has to know they are safe," Games-Neely said.

In the new fiscal year, Morgan, Jefferson and Berkeley counties will pay $45 per prisoner, per night at the Eastern Regional Jail. The counties currently pay about $43.

Howard Strauss, president of the Berkeley County Commission, said the county's Eastern Regional Jail budget for the 2002-03 fiscal year exceeds $2 million.

The new home confinement program is designed to make the individual pay.

Strauss said individuals on the program will pay $7.50 a day or an amount equal to one hour of the wage of their current employment.

If Jefferson and Berkeley counties sign a contract with the company, the cost to lease a transmitter and receiver monitoring unit ranges from $3.69 to $4.78 a day.

"It makes crime pay for itself," Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith said.

Greg Best, the company's business development representative, said the rap artist Snoop Doggy Dog had to pay $790 a day for a year while on the program set up in Los Angeles because of the amount of his income.

Berkeley County Commissioner Robert Burkhart said he figured out that if the county had 30 people on the program for 365 days, the county could save more than $300,000 in jail costs.

Jon Wright, probation officer for Berkeley County, said the company has allowed the probation office to use two monitoring units free of charge for two months.

The probation office monitors people for the courts in the 23rd Judiciary Circuit, which includes Morgan, Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

"The receiver and transmitter are outstanding. There is not a lot of hassle," he said.

The magistrates and officials in attendance Tuesday said if the program is to be successful, it will have to be run tightly and monitored closely.

Berkeley County Magistrate Carlton DeHaven said the program has to be easy to run or it won't be used.

The magistrates plan to set up a work session with their Circuit court judges regarding the program.

Morgan County has already set up the program with Behavioral Interventions and magistrates were trained on Tuesday, Best said.

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