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TMCNet:  Group debates electronic monitoring bracelet issues

[November 16, 2012]

Group debates electronic monitoring bracelet issues

JANESVILLE, Nov 16, 2012 (The Janesville Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- More bracelets Fewer bracelets Members of Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on Thursday talked about two ways electronic monitoring bracelets are used or could be used for repeat intoxicated drivers.


One question is whether people convicted of third-offense intoxicated driving would be willing to choose treatment court rather than time in jail when that time is likely to be spent at home on a bracelet.

The other issue is the possibility of using electronic monitoring to keep people sober while they wait for an intoxicated driving ticket to work its way through the court system. Rock County's newest treatment court is designed to serve as many as 25 people who have pleaded guilty to third-offense intoxicated driving.

After a little more than a month of operation, three people are participating in OWI court.

The only way to get more people to participate, and therefore break their addiction cycles, is to put repeat intoxicated drivers between a rock and a hard place, District Attorney David O'Leary said. Some might be more likely to choose treatment court if the other option is a tough jail sentence, he said.

"Sometimes you've got to hold their feet to the fire until they can do it themselves," O'Leary said.

The sentences for third-offense intoxicated driving convictions include a maximum of one year in jail, more than $4,000 in fines and between 24 to 36 months of driver's license revocation.

A person might think sitting in jail for six months is better than participating in OWI court for 18 months, O'Leary said.

Making things worse is the Rock County Jail's use of electronic monitoring bracelets as an alternative to jail time, O'Leary said. Because of the jail's regular use of the bracelets, many repeat offenders think jail sentences are easy. The public, as well as local defense attorneys, do not see electronic monitoring as punishment, O'Leary said.

"They're home. They're watching ESPN. They're sleeping in their own bed," he said.

Sheriff Robert Spoden on Thursday said electronic monitoring is an appropriate sanction for many inmates, including third-offense intoxicated drivers.

In many cases, judges give inmates Huber privileges at the time of sentencing, Spoden said. In that situation, inmates are free to leave the jail for 12 hours per day, five days a week, to work or look for work, he said.

Inmates in the Huber dorm have less supervision than inmates at home on monitoring bracelets, Spoden said.

Spoden said he would support a move to end electronic monitoring as an alternative to jail in some cases as long as judges don't give offenders Huber privileges, he said.

Spoden and O'Leary agreed to meet with judges and other officials to talk about changing the electronic monitoring policy and re-evaluating whether third-offense intoxicated drivers are the best fit for OWI court.

The other bracelet issue is about a different proposed tool to stop repeat intoxicated driving offenses. O'Leary and Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore recently suggested judges could order alcohol-monitoring bracelets as part of bond conditions. Such an order could be appropriate for felony intoxicated driving charges, many of which are fourth offenses.

Committee members reviewed information about other Wisconsin counties that use presentence monitoring for repeat offenders.

The Rock County committee could talk about the matter in the future.

___ (c)2012 The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.) Visit The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.) at www.gazetteextra.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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