FLORENCE – Using ankle monitors for inmates with health problems could help lower the $500,000 the county is spending to provide medical care for inmates.
Commissioners recently discussed the proposed monitoring plan with District Attorney Chris Connolly and Jail Administrator Jason Brewer.
“If we have an inmate booked into the detention center and that person has to be taken to the hospital for whatever reason, that expense falls on the county,” Commissioner Brad Holmes said.
Presently, Connolly said the only way to control medical costs is by furloughing or releasing the inmate on a recognizance bond.
“Putting them on an ankle monitor and then releasing them on medical furlough or a recognizance bond would still allow us to have control of them, but also it would make them responsible for any medical treatment or expense,” Connolly said.
Also, if an inmate has to go to the hospital and is admitted, a deputy must stay with them at all times, said Brewer. That's happened twice in recent weeks.
“That’s the added cost of paying overtime for the deputy and the medical fees,” Commissioner Roger Garner said.
Connolly explained if an inmate is on an ankle monitor, the hospital will allow the inmate to be admitted without a deputy standing guard.
Kristen Zachary, a representative of Tracking Solutions based in Christiana, Tennessee, said each ankle monitor is equipped with a GPS unit. It is held in place with re-enforced steel bands that “can’t be cut.”
She said the devices are monitored constantly,. The moment the device is out of the area the person is supposed to be in, an “alert is sent out to authorities.”
It will cost the county $1.50 per day to lease monitors that are not being used but are stored at the detention center. Once a monitor is activated and put on an inmate, the cost increases to $7 per day.
“Compared to what we are paying now (in medical expenses) is pennies on the dollar,” Holmes said.
Connolly said a judge would have to approve all releases of prisoners wearing ankle monitors.
“We’re not going to be putting dangerous or violent criminals on an ankle monitor,” he said.
“It’s not going to affect us letting people out, it’s going to affect our medical costs,” Holmes said.
A vote on the proposal is expected to be taken in an upcoming meeting.