New law aims to relieve costs associated with pretrial inmates
House Bill 15 went into effect Aug. 12 with the goal of moving more alleged offenders from pretrial facilities to ankle bracelet monitoring systems.
The Department of Corrections says about 28 percent of their 5,267-person population are people awaiting trial. Each one costs $142 a day to support. With the new law, people eligible to be monitored with an ankle bracelet can use the time they spent on the device toward their prison time if they are convicted and sentenced.
“They’re able to work. They’re able to not lose their housing. And they’re able to stay connected to some of the resources they already have access to in the community,” said DOC Commissioner Ron Taylor. “Whereas if they were inside our institution, those resources would be cut off for them.”
The number of people in Alaska’s pretrial facilities has increased 81 percent in the last decade, and the state is having trouble keeping up.
“We need [jail] beds reserved for people who need to be there,” Taylor said.
The law is good for businesses like Pioneer Peak Monitoring, a Palmer-based company that supplies ankle bracelets for GPS tracking and alcohol monitoring.
“There’s a big incentive for [alleged offenders] to get out and do things correctly, stay out of trouble and not reoffend,” said Matthew Baskett, the company’s manager.
One ankle bracelet user, who wished to remain anonymous, said it gave him the opportunity to maintain a full-time job while he waited for his trial to start.
“The device gave me the opportunity to at least plead my innocence and have time with my kids, even if I did have to go back and do some jail time,” he said.
The law gives judges final say on who qualifies to pay for a bracelet. More serious offenders will not be permitted to use them.
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