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Our View...Using the most modern ‘tools of the trade’ makes perfect sense

This week the Carlton County Board approved a measure that will test the use of electronic home monitoring for certain offenders awaiting court trials. It’s an idea whose time has come, and the county should be applauded for utilizing modern technology to save time, money and — at least in some cases — give offenders the benefit of the type of home support system they need to work through their difficulties.

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Electronic monitoring is by no means something new. It has been in use for a long time for offenders found guilty of crimes who have been court-ordered to undergo monitoring as part of their probation.

What is new is utilizing monitoring to allow certain accused offenders deemed not to be public safety risks to spend the time leading up to their trials at home rather than behind bars. This has advantages both for the county and the offenders.

The county will experience significant cost savings over the cost of housing those same offenders in the jail. With jail overcrowding already an issue, there is a lot of sense in monitoring non-violent offenders at home rather than risk incurring the considerable expense of boarding prisoners outside the county.

Home monitoring will also help cut back on the number of visits necessary by the probation officer, and also make certain that a visit is made at the time it is most warranted — if an offender is found to be somewhere other than where he or she is supposed to be, or if there is an indication he or she has been consuming alcohol.

The hope is that the program will also keep offenders awaiting trial within the supportive environment of their homes, rather than cutting them them off from that environment by putting them behind bars.

Obviously, this isn’t going to work in all cases. The screening process to determine who will be granted electronic monitoring in lieu of incarceration will be utilized with care, and only those accused of committing certain types of offenses will even be considered. But if the system works as effectively here as it has in surrounding counties, it should be a boon for all concerned.

Wendy Johnson