Advanced technology that allows individuals charged or convicted of a crime to be monitored outside of jail will be implemented at the Aiken County detention center system at the beginning of 2014.
At its regular meeting on Tuesday evening, County Council unanimously approved a resolution to accept a contract with Offender Management Services LLC to manage a home detention and electronic monitoring program. Depending on the participation of the program, this technology could potentially save the County several thousand dollars each month and will help decrease the jail population, according to Aiken County Sheriff's Office Capt. Nick Gallam.
Home detention is supported by state law and is offender funded, Gallam said. An offender would pay about $70 a week, which covers the equipment and an administrative fee.
Those eligible for the program include offenders released pretrial, individuals serving a sentence of less than 90 days, family court participants and offenders with medical conditions or special needs.
Offenders who are denied bond would not be eligible for the program and would stay behind bars, said Gallam. Consent from anyone living with an offender to stay at the residence would also be obtained, according to the agreement.
The offenders would wear a GPS monitoring device that would track them each minute of the day, and an alert would be sent out immediately if the device is tampered with, said Gallam.
The device includes inclusion and exclusion zones. For example, if the individual is a sex offender, the device can be programmed to exclude schools and notification would be sent to authorities if the offender enters any exclusion zone. Inclusion zones allow the offender to continue their jobs, attend college classes and conduct other approved business deemed appropriate while awaiting criminal proceedings.
“We want them to keep working,” said Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie during the presentation on Tuesday night. “People can keep their jobs. That's the good part of it.”
Gallam said this program provides supervision of released offenders not covered by the current bond process, will save the County money on offenders with medical issues and is less expensive than housing low-risk offenders.
Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt said the program will also help police solve crime as there's a relatively small portion of the population that breaks the law. The offenders are bonded out and some often offend again, so this program could help police keep track of their activity.
Horry, Marlboro, Jasper, Chesterfield, Greenville, Lancaster, Spartanburg and Charleston counties have all successfully used this program, Gallam said.
“There are other counties that have been doing this for years,” Gallam said. “We're behind the times, really.”
Gallam said no extra personnel will be needed initially, but if the program grows, the Sheriff's Office may review the potential of hiring additional staff.
Amy Banton is the County beat reporter and has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman's College.