Northwest NEWS

January 31, 2000

Local News

City saves money with home monitoring

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The Woodinville City Council has unanimously approved Police Chief Ken Wardstrom's proposal to save money by contracting with a private agency for electronic home monitoring (EHM) devices, rather than with the King County Jail.

   The "no-cost" EHM contract with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) requires the defendant to pay for the EHM services, rather than the city. Even if a defendant is indigent, the costs of the program are set up to be paid by defendants on a sliding scale, said Wardstrom.

   Previously, the city paid King County the same costs as if the defendant were in jail, Wardstrom explained. If a judge ordered EHM for a Woodinville resident, the EHM device--a wrist or ankle bracelet--was installed and monitored by King County Jail personnel. Installation costs $136.93 and monitoring costs $66.36 per day. That costs the city $2,127.93 for a 30-day sentence.

   A law passed by the state legislature in January 1999 requires all local jurisdictions to provide the mandatory EHM penalty for all DUI cases. A judge can order EHM--for first-time or misdemeanor offenders, not habitual criminals--instead of jail time. That lightens the overcrowding of jails and keeps first-time offenders away from the jail population, which could involve a bit rougher penalty than the average resident might deserve, Wardstrom explained.

   WASPC contracts with private agencies that are set up for EHM. That agency installs the equipment in the defendant's home, monitors the defendant, and reports violations to local police and to the courts. Other than during violations, Woodinville police officers (all King County deputies) are thus freed from any of the EHM monitoring, as required before.

   Cities also can save costs if they buy their own EHM equipment, as one local jurisdiction does, said Wardstrom. But that involves maintenance expense and additional staff hiring. The Council determined that was also more costly than contracting with WASPC.