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Electronic Monitoring Helps Jail Reduce Load

August 11, 2013, 9:55 PM by Derek Olson

Electronic Monitoring Helps Jail Reduce Load

Room is running out at the Pennington County Jail in Rapid City.

"The jail is running close to full.  We opened up our last housing unit that we had available, which was kind of on stand-by but now it's open most of the time," Pennington County Jail Commander Jim Rowenhorst said.

The capacity at the jail is nearly 600 inmates, and comes with a hefty price tag.

"The cost to house an inmate here is $79-per day, and that's calculated with all expenses into it. Work release inmates do pay us to stay here and for the privilege to go out on work release, but that's $23-per day so it doesn't cover the cost of the operation," Rowenhorst said.

That has county officials thinking outside the box when it comes to keeping track of some low risk offenders in the work release program.  Their solution: electronic ankle monitors.

"These are low-level offenders, they're already in the community anyway, and this provides a higher level of supervision than they currently have," Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.

The concept of monitoring work release inmates with ankle monitors isn't a new idea, but it's the first time a program like this has been implemented in the state of South Dakota.

"The systems today are very sophisticated. They're GPS just like the navigation systems that you have on your cell phone and your car, and we can pinpoint the location of individuals very close," Rowenhorst said.

So far, seven inmates have been released with the electronic monitors. It's a number that Sheriff Thom would like to increase.

"We have a population of around 60 to 70 people in work release. The goal would be to get them all on electronic monitoring and free up that much more bed space in the facility," Thom said.

Inmates released on the electronic monitoring system would pay $15-per day, which would cover the entire cost of the operation.

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