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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Technology to track criminals will expand

As the economy tightens the reins on the rest of us, San Bernardino County is shortening its leash even more on a special few.

This is a group almost everyone is glad that someone is watching. It includes child molesters, wife beaters, drunken drivers and gang members.

The Board of Supervisors last week voted to expand the county's use of surveillance technology to track criminal offenders who are on probation or serving time on house arrest or weekends in jail.

Some of the technology includes global positioning satellite surveillance, home-based electronic monitoring and alcohol monitoring.

Primary users of the technology will be the county Probation Department and the Sheriff's Department.

And in these days when the taxpayers are taking a beating, this program is expected to pay its own way by requiring the offenders to pay for the equipment that tracks them. It's either agree to that or jail.

Taxpayers get another break out of the deal. When the offender is out and about and being monitored, the county isn't forced to provide him with room and board, which is a big savings. It also helps alleviate overcrowding in the jails - a chronic problem in San Bernardino County.

The county signed contracts with Total Court Services to provide alcohol monitoring and Sentinel Offender Services to provide GPS tracking and home-based monitoring.

GPS satellite tracking has been in use in the county for four years. But the alcohol monitoring is new and the Sheriff's Department is new to the home-based electronic monitoring.

Sgt. David Phelps said several hundred county prisoners work during the week and serve their time on weekends. This should enable them to complete their sentences sooner.

The offenders will be charged $15 a day on a sliding scale according to ability to pay. It will cost the county nothing, and the contractors will collect the money. [Mark Godsey]

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