Some felony offenders may wear ankle monitors

2019-07-03


Posted Saturday, June 22, 2019 9:12 pm
By TIM SINIARD

Some indigent inmates at the Bradley County Jail who face misdemeanor, as well as felony charges, may gain early release if they are allowed to wear electronic monitoring devices, commonly referred to as ankle monitors or bracelets.

During Friday’s meeting of the Bradley County Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee, commission members voted 3-0 to opt-in a state program that would allow indigent offenders the opportunity to return to their lives and jobs as they await for courts to review their cases.

Those voting to approve were Commissioners Jeff Yarber, Erica Davis and Bill Winters. Commissioners Bobby Goins and Howard Thompson were not present.

The resolution will be considered later by the Bradley County Commission.

Importantly, the program will help ease overcrowding at the Bradley County Jail, were indigent inmates remain for long periods of time because they are unable to meet bail requirements.

Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson told committee members it was time for everyone in the county to be on one page regarding criminal justice reform, a topic important to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who campaigned on the issue during last year’s gubernatorial election.

“Everybody will have to be on board from the judges on down,” Lawson said.

Scott Cranmore, vice president of Tennessee Recovery & Monitoring, told the commission that indigent inmates are incarcerated for months as they await lab results related to their arrests, for example.

“They wait for months because they can’t make bond,” Cranmore said. “During this entire time they are away from family, can’t work and can’t contribute to society.”

Cranmore also said indigent offenders with charges that have “barely crossed the threshold into felonies” could be included in the program based on a determination by the courts.

He said it costs taxpayers $73 per day as the inmates sit in jail awaiting their cases to be reviewed by the courts.

Cranmore’s company contracts with Tennessee county governments to supply electronic monitoring devices used to track inmates who have gained court-ordered releases.

He said the program has a 99.6% success rate. 

“We keep up with their jobs and where they are living,” Cranmore said. "We are truly supervising these individuals on a day-to-day basis.”

Under the current program, non-indigent inmates who are released are required to pay $70 per week to wear the ankle bracelets. If the county opts-in to provide the indigent the same privileges, it would result in not only reducing overcrowding at the jail, but also saving money. For the indigent program, the state reimburses the vendor supplying the ankle bracelets.

According to Cranmore, the yearly incarceration cost of indigent inmates costs the county over $2.9 million yearly. The cost for the indigent program would be $133,700, resulting in over $2.7 million in savings.

“We are trying to get people out that cost you money,” Cranmore told the committee.

10th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Coty Wamp said the majority of indigent offenders who will be using the ankle bracelets will be felony offenders.

“What this jail is full of is pretrial felony offenders, and those are the ones who are not making this jail any money,” Wamp said.

Wamp said she was not referring to those who had already been sentenced.

She said as of Friday morning, there were 134 indigent inmates in jail for pretrial felonies.

Wamp said many misdemeanor offenders in Bradley County are able to gain release by making bond or having enough money to hire an attorney. As a result, many are able to receive permission to wear a monitoring device. However, those who cannot remain stuck in jail until their cases are heard.

“From a fairness point of view, it’s really not fair that the indigent offenders have never had the ability to have the pretrial ankle monitors,” Wamp said. “If you have the ability to hire a lawyer, and have got some money, then you don’t have to be in jail because you can get out on an ankle monitor.”

Pat Monks