OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Board voted Monday afternoon to move ahead with approving the county’s ATI plan. Deborah Meyer, director of the county’s Probation Department, chaired the meeting.
The county’s plan would be based on the state ATI programs. The goal of the state programs is “to reduce recidivism through offender behavioral change, promote public safety and enhance defendant-offender accountability through community corrections.”
The county is required to fill out the plan and submit it to the state annually
The Probation Department has about $21,112 that can be earmarked for the program.
“With that money, the Probation provides some alternatives to incarceration services to the county. It’s a mandate of the Probation Department, but we think it’s important because it saves a lot of money in a lot of different areas, Meyer said.
Some of the money helps fund the Sheriff’s Office’s weekend work program and some assist the Pre-Trial Release program.
Also part of the program will be the use of electronic monitoring devices.
Last fall, Oswego County legislators approved a proposal to allow the Probation Department to use a GPS tracking system and electronic bracelets to monitor criminals who are awaiting court action.
The system can help alleviate jail overcrowding by providing around-the-clock tracking of offenders in their homes, proponents said.
“Electronic ankle bracelets and similar devices provide a cost-effective alternative to incarceration for individuals who wouldn’t normally be eligible for pre-trial release without an added ability to monitor them,” according to Meyer.
County Legislator Linda Lockwood is chairwoman of the legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee and a member of the advisory board.
She said the electronic monitoring program could have a significant impact on over-crowding of the county jail, which has exceeded its capacity for the past several months. The numbers, currently, are down from what they were at the first of the year.
Probation officers assess offenders to determine if they present a safety risk and are appropriate for pre-trial release monitoring. Ultimately it’s a judge’s decision to allow the offender to participate in an electronic monitoring program.
“What we will probably end up doing is taking (the board’s recommendation) back to the legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee for further review before sending it to the floor of the full legislature,” said Kevin Gardner, chairman of the legislature. “We’ll have a review and see what the Public Safety Committee has to say. They might request an update on the program every meeting. If the numbers (of inmates at OCJ) go back up to where they were at the beginning of the year, we’d probably have to do separate monthly meetings.”
The county’s program has eight units; there are six people currently taking part.
Some are doing it as part of a pre-trial agreement, others because they violated their probations, Meyer said.
Six doesn’t sound like much, she noted. But when you consider the cost of housing an inmate and transporting them to other facilities (due to over-crowding), which can run up to $100 a day, versus this cost of about $8 day – the savings adds up.
The devices are all basically the same, Meyer noted.
The publicity regarding the case earlier this year in Onondaga County where (a suspect) tampered with his monitoring device and sexually abused a young girl and murdered a woman with ties to Oswego, “spooked a lot of people,” Meyer admits.
“We are monitoring them 24/7. If there is a tamper alert or if the person is in a zone that we excluded them from, the Sheriff’s Office will respond,” she said.