Electronic Monitoring Gives Convicts Chance at Change
ANCHORAGE - You never know where life will take you. No one knows that better than Amber Martin. Today she’s working her dream job at AK Must Love Dogs Daycare, but that wasn’t always the case.
“I was in a very hard place in my life, so I tried meth for the first time and I was on it for two months straight,” said Martin.
Martin was high when she and a friend robbed eight trick-or-treaters -- at gunpoint -- for their candy on Halloween night 2007.
“Every day since then I've had to live with the regret and trying to process what I had done. I take full responsibility for everything I have done,” said Martin.
She spent nearly five years at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, where she started training dogs to be companions for wounded warriors.
Although she’s no long behind bars, she’s still in the state’s custody, serving the rest of her time with an ankle monitor.
Robert Tufi is another. The father of five is serving time for this third DUI.
“By coming here and doing the things I've been able to do on ankle monitor, like continuing to work, support my family and feel good about that instead of being in jail for a DUI and being depressed about the things I can't do to help my family. At least out here I can still help out,” said Tufi.
Probation Officer Josh Mercer says crime doesn’t just affect the victim and the suspect, but the suspect’s family as well. He says house arrest is one way to limit the harmful effects on children.
“The family members and family unit stays in tact and they survive. A lot of individuals on this program they don't come and go. They usually visit the system, serve their sentence of confinement and they're on their way,” said Mercer.
At any given time in the Anchorage Bowl there are more than 300 people on the electronic monitoring program. Most are not considered dangerous; a lot of them have been sentenced for crimes involving substance abuse.
People on house arrest can’t drive and their ankle monitors can sense alcohol. They’re also required to take a weekly drug test. Participants must have a job and are only allowed out of the house for up to 12 hours a day.
The Department of Corrections won’t allow sex offenders or anyone with domestic violence charges on the program.
Program supervisor Billy Houser said people have to show they’re willing to changes so they don’t end up back in the system.
“Most of these folks are not bad people. A lot of them have just made silly mistakes in their lives or got involved in the wrong type of things and made bad decisions but most of them have turned their lives around,” said Houser.
Martin said she’s a prime example of that. She’s gone from convicted felon and drug addict to a person who gives back to the community and hopes to one day open her own doggy daycare.
“I haven't fully forgiven myself. I still get down on myself. You have to move on from your past. You have to look forward to the future,” said Martin.
With her mistakes behind her, Martin knows wherever life takes her it will be in the right direction.