Douglas County Commission to consider starting house-arrest program for convicted offenders
Douglas County commissioners will be asked Wednesday to approve $92,465 in funding to start a home-arrest program for convicted juvenile and adult offenders.
Robert Bieniecki, the county criminal justice coordinator, said the program would be available for those convicted in district and municipal courts of nonviolent lower-level offenses. Many would be those convicted of second and third DUI offenses, in which house arrest is an option at a judge’s discretion after a prescribed amount of jail time, he said.
The program would make electronic monitors, which are used to enforce house arrests, available with no costs to offenders who can’t afford the $150 to $200 upfront fee that bail bondsmen charge to attach the devices to offenders. Bieniecki said he has learned that many defense attorneys don’t request house arrest for clients if they know they can’t afford the fee. Any cost the county absorbed from waiving the fee would be less than that of housing the inmate in a jail cell, he said.
“We want to show we’re doing everything we can to keep the jail population the lowest it can be,” he said. “We don’t want people sitting in jail because they can’t afford to get out.”
Bieniecki will request that the program be staffed with a full-time monitoring officer at the cost of $68,965 annually in salary and benefits. A vehicle and office equipment will add $23,500 in program startup costs to the request.
Bieniecki said he was working to develop an estimate of the number of inmates who could be released from county custody through the program.
He is proposing that the program use the same vendor of electronic monitoring devices that supplies the county’s pretrial release program. The vendor offers a lease-for-service arrangement in which it monitors the devices and alerts the county if an offender has strayed beyond an allowable boundary or has removed a device, he said. The county was billed $2,158 for the 22 pretrial release inmates fitted with the devices in March, he said.
The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. For the commission’s complete agenda, visit douglascountyks.org.