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home : news : news Thursday, July 10, 2014

1/30/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Justice commission to review jail data for expanded monitoring program

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

The Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission (CCJCC) plans to review data on jail inmates to determine if there is a need to expand the county's electronic monitoring program to free up additional beds.

Coordinator Brian McKenrick said at the Jan. 24 commission meeting he is in the process of gathering data on the types of charges inmates are facing and how long they stay in jail awaiting trial.

If the data doesn't show there are inmates spending lengthy periods awaiting court proceedings, there's no reason to consider a further expansion of the electronic monitoring program, McKenrick said.

The electronic monitoring program, also known as EMP, allows individuals convicted of low-level offenses to serve in-home detention in lieu of a jail term. Convicts are outfitted with an ankle bracelet that tracks the individuals location via GPS and allows law enforcement officials to call through the bracelet to check up on EMP inmates.

The devices previously required a land-line phone to maintain contact, but now have the capability of connecting through a cell phone number. The jail also is investigating equipment that includes a breath-alcohol monitor and camera.

Individuals approved for EMP are required to spend twice as many days on in-home detention as they would in jail; for example, a two-day jail sentence translates to four days of in-home detention with electronic monitoring.

Jail administrator Craig Eberhart said there currently are eight individuals on EMP, the most the jail has had at a single time.

"We have more people on EMP now, and it's scheduled for the next month or so . . . we're really starting to use that," Eberhart said.

County attorney Mike Wolf said studies have shown the deterrent effect of in-home detention is equal to that of a jail sentence.

Clinton police chief Brian Guy said it would be good to gauge the CCJCC's success in managing the jail population now that the commission has been in place for four years.

"It may be beneficial to track what is the population in the jail and any length of stay just to see if, in year four, we're hitting the mark" in addressing jail overcrowding and the associated costs, Guy said.

He noted the CCJCC initially was formed to deal with jail overcrowding, including developing plans for a new county jail.

Eberhart said he's happy with the way things have been going, and he reviewed numbers that show a declining jail population in recent years.

The Clinton County jail averaged 179 inmates per month in 2010, 167 inmates per month in 2011 and 155 inmates per month in 2012, Eberhart said.

McKenrick noted he has producing a quarterly report that tracks overall jail population in order to determine peak times for use in a staffing and space needs analysis related to the discussion of building a new jail.

Eberhart presented data on the average daily jail population, which has decreased steadily since 2006, when the average daily population was 67 inmates.

The average daily population in 2007 was 60 inmates, and it fell to 58 inmates in 2008 and 44 inmates in 2009. The jail averaged 42 inmates in 2010 and 2011, and the figure fell to 39 inmates in 2012.

Wolf said another statistic to consider is the number of individuals who are cited into court rather than arrested and held in custody prior to a arraignment.

Eberhart noted the number of inmates serving time on failure-to-appear charges has decreased.

McKenrick said he wants to "drill down" on the data to see specific crimes charged, rather than just whether a charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, and who is sitting in jail the longest so the commission can look at ways to expedite the process.

"The numbers on paper are down. I think that shows we're moving in the right direction," Guy said.

He suggested the CCJCC needs to be more analytical than it was four years ago, when the initial reaction to the cost of jail overcrowding was to look immediately at building a new facility.

Mental health and gun permits

Kim Ralston, director of Clinton County's community assistance department, said one topic for the CCJCC to consider in future discussions relates to sharing of information on individuals with a history of mental illness who are seeking or have been approved gun permits.

She said her understanding is permit applications ask whether an individual ever has been committed for mental illness, but her office is not allowed to directly share information with the sheriff's office.

Clerk of court representative Kim Hess said her office looks at mental health history when running background checks for the sheriff's office, but commitments only show up if they took place within Clinton County.

Commission secretary Tara Sbertoli, who works at the sheriff's office, said there are some residents receiving mental health services from the county who also are carrying weapons.

She said recently a county case manager requested information on a consumer, but she was told by assistant county attorney Ross Barlow the sheriff's office could not supply that information.

Bylaw amendment approved

The commission accepted with regret the resignation of citizen representative Rita Hart, who is stepping down due to her duties as a newly-elected state senator.

However, Hart and other area legislators now will have status as non-voting members of the CCJCC after commissioners approved an amendment to the group's bylaws.

The amendment states any state legislator whose district encompasses all or part of Clinton County shall be invited by the chairperson to serve as a non-voting commission member.

Based on current legislative districts, the invitation will extend to Rep. Steve Olson (R-DeWitt) as well as Hart (D-Wheatland) and Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton).

Wolfe currently serves on the commission as Clinton County Bar Association representative in partnership with her father, Jack Wolfe.

It was agreed to send a letter of thanks to Hart for her service on the commission.

Other business

In other business, the commission:

•Discussed the fact there is no sign in place to notify residents and visitors the location of the Clinton County Courthouse.

Clerk of court representative Hess said her office sometimes hears from visitors who have difficulty locating the building due to the lack of a sign. Sbertoli of the sheriff's office said visitors at the law center ask for directions to the courthouse about once a week.

It was noted the courthouse building includes offices for the clerk of court, county attorney, CCJCC coordinator and emergency management agency in addition to magistrate and district courtrooms.

The issue will be mentioned to the Clinton County Board of Supervisors, which oversees the facility.

•Appointed board of supervisors representative Brian Schmidt as vice chair of the CCJCC.

•Scheduled the annual strategic planning session for 1-5 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28, location to be determined.


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