Electronic Monitoring Bracelet Debate

The controversy over the effectiveness of electronic ankle monitoring bracelets continues as Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council discussed the use of the devices for those who continue to drink and drive. One of the topics addressed was the choice between offender court with alcohol treatment and time in custody served at the offender’s residence while wearing an ankle bracelet, especially for offenders who have committed their third offense.

Another option might include ankle bracelets to monitor intoxicated offenders as their ticket goes through the sometimes time-consuming process of the court system. The most recent treatment court can accommodate up to 25 offenders who have admitted their guilt for a third drinking-and-driving offense. As of November 16, 2012, three people were attending the court.

A representative from the district attorney’s office indicated that giving repeat offenders tough choices regarding their consequences might be one way of deterring their behaviors and increasing program participation. If the offenders know they will need to serve a harsh jail term, they might opt for treatment instead. Real-life penalties might force these repeat offenders to address and change their criminal behavior.

The present consequences for a third-time drinking and driving conviction are up to 365 days in custody, more than $4,000 in court sanctions and two to three years with no driving privileges. The current sanctions may not effectively deter offenders who don’t always receive the maximum sentence. Instead, they sometimes choose to serve a shorter jail term instead of attending alcohol-treatment court for 18 months. The Rock County Jail regularly offers ankle bracelets to those convicted of a third OWI. Some offenders believe that electronic monitoring is not a harsh punishment and feel that they can breeze through the sentence. The community and some attorneys also share the same opinion. The defendants remain at home, watch television, spend time on the internet, live with their families and sleep in their own bed.

However, Sheriff Robert Spoden offered a different point of view when he insisted that ankle bracelets are an effective punishment for many convicted individuals, such as those who commit a third OWI. In other cases, judges permit defendants release time from jail for 12 hours daily for up to five days a week. This release program, called Huber privileges, allows them to work and includes travel time. These inmates receive reduced supervision when compared with those who don ankle bracelets. Spoden indicated that he would favor ending ankle bracelets if inmates do not receive Huber privileges. A committee will review the appropriateness of third-time OWI offenders for treatment court, including how other state counties monitor OWI offenders. The committee is also assessing the handling of felony OWI offenders, some of whom have committed a fourth offense.

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