Scott County government considers house arrest program to ease jail burden

Friday, September 4, 2009 ~ Updated 4:19 PM

BENTON, Mo. -- Scott County Commissioners are considering a "house arrest" program to help cut down on the jail population.

The program, proposed by Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd, was discussed during Thursday's meeting.

"The whole intent of talking is to see if there is anything we can do to lower the jail population," said Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger. "We're not here to ask you guys to circumvent the law or circumvent good judgment."

Boyd suggested that some of the jail population be offered the program, which would use a GPS system to monitor offenders while on house arrest. "In a typical situation, I foresee a person who would be released on house arrest would have an account set up at the sheriff's office as part of the bond conditions where they would provide the necessary information to set up their house arrest locations," he proposed.

Under the proposal, defendants would fund the house arrest themselves and be responsible for other costs associated with it, which would be $4 per day, said Boyd. Who would qualify for release would be up to the courts.

The GPS would be plugged into a computer system, which would be monitored and would alert law enforcement officials if a defendant is in a location he or she is not allowed.

For the past few months, the jail, which can hold a maximum of 125 inmates, has had more than 90 inmates daily, said Commissioner Donnie Kiefer. The cost to board individuals is about $35 per day, and a majority of the inmates are held on state offenses, for which the state only reimburses the counties $21.

The county is slightly over budget when it comes to its own housing expenses, as well as those incurred when inmates must be held in another facility due to overflow. Commissioners said the house arrest program may be a good way to get some prisoners out who are unable to pay their bonds otherwise.

"We appreciate what you all do and I know the citizens want the bad ones off the street," said Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn. "We're not trying to get in your business, we're just trying to figure out a solution. We've got a budget to consider."

In looking at the list of current inmates, Scott Horman, associate circuit court division 5 judge, said he didn't think a lot of them would qualify for the program.

"It's easy to look here and see this individual only has a Class C felony," said Horman. "But I see they have 12 felony convictions, too -- and that's probably why the bond is higher."

Horman also pointed out there may be an issue with defendants following up on their payments -- which would mean the courts would issue a warrant for their arrest and the individuals would end up back in jail.

However, Boyd pointed out there's no harm in having the program for situations in which it could be used.

"If we don't have this as a tool, we can't use it," he said. "At least the courts could have the access to this and be able to use it when we can."

Boyd said the county or sheriff must set up an account. Commissioners asked Sheriff Rick Walter for his opinion and he said he'd like to talk to sheriffs in other counties to see if they have the program and how it has worked.

Pertinent address:

131 S. Winchester St., Benton, Mo.

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