It's no surprise that work-release programs are among the first to go when jails are overcrowded. When offenders are low enough risk to allow them to leave for work every day, it serves little public safety purpose to incarcerate them at night or on weekends in an already-full jail.
County Commissioners approved a program Wednesday that gives judges the option of sentencing low-risk offenders to house arrest using ankle-monitoring bracelets rather than sending them to jail.
Offenders would be required to pay the $6.50-a-day cost of the electronic tracking devices. ...
Inmates eligible for ankle monitors would be those on a work-release agreement with the courts. The decision will be made by local judges and the monitoring and fee collections handled by the sheriff’s office. ...
The county is expected to order 10 ankle monitors and evaluate the program after two months to determine whether it is effective.
Travis County this year ended its work-release program. Travis offenders who previously would have been in work-release instead show up on weekends and participate in work crews instead of spending the weekend incarcerated. In Smith County, inmates previously incarcerated on work-release are now supervised through the day reporting center created by the county and Judge Cynthia Kent.
Like the solutions in other counties, Nueces County's approach in practice will require extra staff resources for monitoring. GPS is tracking is more resource-intensive than many agencies anticipate and is not a substitute for well-staffed community supervision. But I'm encouraged by their efforts to move non-dangerous offenders out of the jail and supervise them in the community. It's a small step in the right direction.