Home Arrest

Today, I want to talk to you about a program that I was skeptical about until I learned more: Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney’s Home Arrest program.

When I first heard that criminals could be detained in their own home rather than in jail, I thought, "Who wouldn"t want to be detained in their own home rather than the county jail?"

Home Arrest is for sentences up to one year for non-violent criminals, and 80% of those given home arrest privileges already have Huber Law privileges (i.e. they are allowed leave to go to work, school, and medical
appointments, and a few for child care.)

The difference between the Huber facility and Home Arrest may appear to be subtle, but they are really quite distinct. Huber prisoners can leave the Huber facility each day unsupervised, but are supposed to return in the evening and stay overnight.

Violators who don’t return get five days of no release (after recapture, of course). The Sheriff then petitions for revocation of their Huber privileges, which means they are returned to the county jail.

Huber criminals are not electronically monitored during the day outside the facility, which means they can commit new crimes during the day (say, a drug offense).

In contrast, while Home Arrest sounds like a sweet deal for the crooks, they actually don’t like it because under Home Arrest, the crooks are electronically monitored 24/7 with a GPS monitor linked to Google Earth. Homes are also eligible for an unannounced search at any time. In fact, some inmates have even asked to be removed from the program because of the limits their behavior.

For drunk drivers, they also get a real-time, in-home breathalyzer, and the Sheriff’s office can call anytime and order the inmate to take the breathalyzer test (using facial recognition software) on a random schedule.

The difference with Home Arrest is that the inmate’s work or school location is programmed into the system and the inmate is monitored for his travel route and time. If he deviates from the programmed route, the Sheriff will know about it and he is placed back in the Huber facility. The monitoring is so accurate that the Sheriff’s office even called an inmate once and told him to tell the driver of the vehicle to slow down because they were speeding.

The funny thing is, sometimes parents of inmates will ask that their son be removed from the in-home detention because the program is so strict; parents cannot even have a beer during a football game under the rules. Alcohol and drugs are removed from the home during the initial inspection, and follow-up inspections can occur anytime. In addition, the parameter of the in-home zone can be programmed very tightly, just like an invisible dog fence!

Of course, in order to be considered for Home Arrest, the prisoner goes through a lengthy evaluation to determine if he can safely participate in the program, and everyone in the home has to sign a contract that they agree to abide by all Dane County Jail rules.

From a taxpayer perspective, the cost to house an inmate is $82 per day in the county jail, but only $29 for Home Arrest. Better yet, home detention inmates pay the cost, whereas a jail inmate does not. A total of $9,500 a day, or $3.5 million, was saved in 2008 by using Home Arrest.

The program appears to be a great success, reducing the Dane County Jail inmate population by removing lower-risk inmates, which in turn has allowed the jail to rent jail beds to the State Department of Corrections, bringing in an estimated $759,000 in 2010. Before this program began, the Sheriff housed up to 200 inmates in surrounding counties, spending up to $3.3 million in the highest year.

Meanwhile, the public is still safe because of the tight controls, and the program has a 95% success rate.

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