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County to pilot electronic monitoring for some who are awaiting trial

The Carlton County Board approved a plan Tuesday that would utilize electronic home monitoring in lieu of incarceration for people awaiting trial after being charged with committing certain types of crimes.

Carlton County Jail Administrator Paul Coughlin asked commissioners for permission to adjust the Sheriff’s Department budget to allow up to $10,000 to establish a pilot program that would allow for home detention and alcohol monitoring via electronic monitors. Coughlin explained that such monitors can effectively determine if an accused criminal is where he or she is supposed to be while under house arrest, and automatically activates an alcohol sensor every half hour to detect if they’ve been drinking.

Coughlin told commissioners that the monitors would be purchased via a contract with Midwest Monitoring and Surveillance and Surveillance. He said the expected cost would be approximately $14 a day as opposed to the average cost of $55 a day to board an inmate. He added that it would not only be a cost-saving measure but would streamline the number of home visits that currently must be made under similar circumstances.

During each person’s time on the monitor, he or she would be supervised by Carlton County Probation agent Cris Bennett as part of the Confinement Alternative Program (CAP). Midwest Monitoring would also do a weekly home visit to check on the equipment and administer a urine alcohol (UA) test.

At any point when a monitor or home visit indicates there is a problem, or if alcohol use is detected, Bennett will be notified and will make a follow-up visit.

Coughlin said the monitoring will help mitigate the risk factor in the screening process to allow for more home detention and lower the need to board inmates at another facility due to jail overcrowding.

“We will continue to hold those we should,” clarified Coughlin, “but this will allow others to go to electronic monitoring and remain in their home environment.”

Coughlin told commissioners that at this point the program will be piloted with a targeted group in CAP, who will be required to sign a pre-trial probation contract.

The board unanimously approved Coughlin’s request, with the understanding he will provide updates on the outcomes of the program.

In other business to come before the Board:

  •  Commissioners approved a rate increase of 1.94 percent in the gate fees at the Carlton County Transfer Station. Planning and Environmental Services Director Heather Cunningham explained that the county has been notified by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District according to rates established under an agreement with the city of Superior’s landfill and based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index. Commissioner Dick Brenner asked if the increase could in some way be rounded off in order to make gate fees easier to log, but Cunningham said that would likely result in an additional increase.

“We don’t want to increase the prices any more than what we are contractually obligated to do,” said Cunningham.

  •  Mark Linne of the Carlton County Transportation Department informed commissioners that the Moose Lake Airport was presented with an Award of Excellence for “Project of the Year” among medium-sized airports by the Minnesota Council of Airports. Linne explained that the award was based on improvements made to the runway and adjacent apron.
  •  The Board approved a request to replace a 911 dispatcher due to a resignation, effect this Friday.
  •  Patricia Brandstaetter was appointed as representative to the Arrowhead Library Board, replacing long-time member Terry Anderson.
  •  Commissioner Brenner alerted the Board that the Regional Parks and Trails Commission is seeking an appointee from Carlton County. The 13-member Commission is charged with providing recommendations to the legislature for grants funded by the parks and trails legacy fund to be awarded to counties and cities outside the seven-county metropolitan area for parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.