SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The Salt Lake County Jail is bursting at the seams with prisoners. The Sheriff’s office says the jail is over crowded with inmates who commit an array of crimes. The solution might be here in Utah.
The Salt Lake County Jail has 2,080 beds in the facility and each bed is occupied. Lieutenant Don Hutson from the Unified Police tells ABC 4 News that crime is becoming more and more frustrating for arresting officers. The reason officers are frustrated? An officer may arrest a citizen for a crime and days if not hours later the criminal is back on the streets, possibly committing another crime. This is due to over crowding in the jails.
A Utah company called SecureAlert may have found the solution to Utah’s growing crime rates. SecureAlert produces ankle bracelets that are worn by offenders to monitor their locations. A monitoring center allows for monitoring of the offender from a distance, giving the inmate a chance to contribute to society, reduce bail jumping and stop crime before it happens.
A different program is tailored for each individual. An inmate that is given the opportunity to wear the anklet is given perimeters. They're called “restricted zones.”
Each offender will have different restricted zones depending on the crime they have committed. One may be ordered by the court to stay in the city or the county or the state. Another may be ordered to stay away from an estranged spouse or a known drug house. A convicted sex offender would be prohibited from being at or near schools or playgrounds.
SecureAlert then takes those locations and puts them in their database where they can be tracked.
If the offender enters a restricted zone, the bracelet will send off a signal to the monitoring center. The monitoring center then will call the anklet and inform the offender that they are in a restricted zone and their supervising officer will be contacted.
The offender also has the ability to speak back to the monitoring center and say they have permission from their supervising officer. The monitoring center will then contact the officer to verify that the offender may be in that location at that certain time.
This happens for every person who wears this bracelet. For cases of domestic abuse the monitoring center will see the offender approaching the victim. The center will then call the victim and supervising officer before the offender reaches the victim.
This device helps parole officers have 24-hour monitoring of the offender instead of a weekly check in.
The anklet costs about $10-15 a day, compared to the $73.80 it costs to keep a prisoner in Salt Lake County's Metro jail each day. For 2,080 inmates, that's $153,000 a day for all the prisoners.
SecureAlert anklets are on scores of convicted offenders in Utah County. They subscribe to a "user pay" program. People who wear the anklet are, in a sense, renting the device.
Salt Lake County Jail commanders don't use SecureAlert anklets but they recognize high tech tracking devices are a valuable tool for keeping watch over the people under their charge. Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sergeant Russ Young says 93 prisoners under his authority are wearing them right now. They are the prisoners who are either out on early release or awaiting court appearances on a range of charges. So far, it appears to be an effective alternative to incarceration, especially for a jail this crowded.
John Hastings, President of SecureAlert says that anklets are a great option for juvenile offenders. The monitoring center can track the juveniles and make sure they are attending school, showing up for work, participating in their rehab programs or staying at home, according to the juvenile court orders.
Mike Dinero from the Salt Lake County Jail says that 65% of inmates who wear the bracelets successfully complete the program without offenses. Hastings from SecureAlert says they have a graduating rate of 80% of the offenders wearing their bracelets.