Home confinement to begin as early as next week

September 27, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fifteen ankle bracelets arrived at the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Thursday, and a non-violent offender could be placed on home confinement as early as next week, Sheriff W. Randy Smith said.

For every person on home confinement, the county will save $45 a day in jail costs.

Those on home confinement, who must wear a monitoring bracelet at all times, pay a variable rate based on their income, Smith said. For example, someone who makes $10 an hour will pay $10 a day to be on home confinement. The least someone must pay is $7.50 a day, Smith said.

Designed for men and women convicted of nonviolent offenses, the program has strict rules, Smith said.

Participants are allowed out of their home for a limited number of reasons, including work, doctor's appointments or church, Smith said. If they leave at any other time, an alarm will go off at an office in Boulder, Colo., the site from which offenders are monitored. Someone in Boulder will then call Berkeley County 911, Smith said.


If the offender was outside of his home without permission, he will serve the rest of his sentence in jail, Smith said.

"It's going to be run like an iron fist," Smith said.

Offenders cannot have any alcohol in their home, Smith said, but must have a telephone. They must allow police into their home whenever asked to do so.

"Their house becomes our jail," Smith said.

All money raised will go back into maintaining the program and hiring additional personnel if needed, Smith said.

No one person decides who will be allowed to participate. A judge, prosecutor and the sheriff decide, Smith said.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely called home confinement "a necessary evil" needed to combat growing jail and prison populations.

"I operate under the theory that if you do the crime, you do the time," she said. However, with 900 inmates statewide waiting in regional jails to be transferred to state prisons - where there's no room to house them - she said this is a way to help ease overcrowding.

Those who participate will likely receive longer sentences, she said. For example, someone convicted of first-offense DUI typically receives a sentence of 24 hours in jail. If they want home confinement, that sentence could be increased to 30 days, Games-Neely said.

In some cases, home confinement could be an alternative to bail for those waiting for a trial or grand jury indictment, Smith said.

It's important to stress that only "lower-end offenders" who are not deemed to be a danger to society will be granted home confinement, Games-Neely said.

"It is a tremendous case-by-case basis," she said.

Lt. Cheryl Henry Keller of the sheriff's department will administer the home confinement program, Smith said.

"I think it's a great idea," Smith said. "It's the only case in which crime pays for itself."

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