McLennan County commissioners gave final approval Monday to a program designed to let some low-risk criminal offenders serve jail sentences under electronically monitored house arrest.
In unanimous votes, the commissioners court created the electronic monitoring program and hired a vendor to run it. Dallas-based Recovery Healthcare Corp. will administer the program from a vacant office on the first floor of the McLennan County Courthouse Annex in Waco.
The votes followed years of work marked by legal hurdles and, at times, a lack of support from local judges.
Commissioners renewed the push this year to fight the rising cost of jail overcrowding and convinced county court-at-law judges, who handle misdemeanors, to sign on.
“We should have done this years ago,” Commissioner Lester Gibson said.
Under the program, judges can give low-risk, work-release or weekend inmates the option of serving their county jail sentences at home under electronic monitoring.
County officials hope the program eases overcrowding at the McLennan County Jail and lowers the cost of housing overflow inmates at the privately run Jack Harwell Detention Center.
The county spent about $3 million on overflow inmate housing in the budget year that ended Sunday — $2 million more than budgeted — and plans to spend at least $3 million again this year, according to projections.
Commissioners cited the housing costs as a major reason behind the 2-cent property tax rate increase they approved last month.Offenders must pay a $50 enrollment fee and $8 to $8.50 per day to participate in the program, but the county also antiicipates it will be used for indigent defendants, for whom the county would be charged $7 to $7.50 per day:. Even so:
County officials expect to save money even by paying for indigent defendants’ monitoring because it is cheaper than housing them in jail, said Mike Dixon, a county attorney involved in the contract negotiations.
The county spends $45.50 a day for each inmate it houses at the Harwell center and more than $50 a day on each inmate at the county jail, officials have said.