Tweaks Made to Inmate Electronic Monitoring

Changes Needed After State Shifts Prisoners to County Jails

As the already overcrowded Santa Barbara County Jail attempts to deal with higher numbers of inmates than expected due to new state guidelines, the Sheriff’s Department will begin to expand its electronic monitoring program.

An ordinance amendment approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday will shift an electronic monitoring program from a voluntary program to an involuntary home detention system for certain sentenced inmates. The new ordinance also allows the Sheriff to allow pre-sentenced inmates who are being held in lieu of bail to participate in electronic monitoring as they await resolution of their cases.

The department will use discretion in choosing appropriate instances for placing people in the program instead of jail. “It’s not going to be just anybody,” Sheriff’s spokesperson Drew Sugars said. Those eligible might be nonviolent inmates or those charged with misdemeanors. One day of electronic monitoring will be the equivalent of one day in jail.

The Sheriff’s Department has had alternative programs for sentencing for quite some time. In 1971, the department started a work furlough system and in 1984 began the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP). The department has used a voluntary home detention electronic monitoring program since 2002, which replaced live-in work furlough. In 2011 alone, 1,557 people participated in either GPS monitoring or SWAP. The previous year 1,630 people participated.

But when the state shifted some of the burden of dealing with inmates from the prison system to county jails through AB 109, the county once again had to rethink how it was going to deal with overcrowding. As part of AB 109, the penal code was modified to make these allowances, and the county had to amend its ordinances to follow suit. The ordinance changes, according to Chief Deputy Don Patterson, who is charge of the county jail, are “critical to manage our jail population.”

To help offset the impact to local jails, the Probation Report and Resource Centers and the Sheriff’s Day Reporting Centers have also expanded and enhanced their services.

In coming up with the new programs, the Sheriff consulted with the District Attorney’s office, the public defender, and the probation department.

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