The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Valdez Star 

Short jail sentences now eligible for monitoring instead

Valdez to pilot statewide program for home detention instead of jail


October 10, 2018

Valdez Star photo

Dean Williams, Commissioner of Alaska's DOC, left, and Valdez mayor Jeremy O'Neil, right, signed an agreement for electronic ankle monitoring in Valdez while Bart Hinkle, Valdez Police Chief, looked on.

Some lawbreakers that would usually go to jail may now be eligible to serve their sentences through electronic monitoring, thanks to a new agreement.

Dean Williams, Alaska's commissioner of the Dept. of Corrections, came to Valdez Thursday and signed an agreement with Valdez mayor Jeremy O'Neil that will allow low-level offenders to serve sentences via electronic monitoring rather than serving time in jail.

Williams said it is a big trajectory change for Valdez – and the Dept. of Corrections. Allowing lawbreakers to serve time at home gives local control over offenders rather than sending people to prison, which the commissioner said can be a university to teach criminal behavior.

It allows offenders to keep their jobs and stay with their families, which is not possible if someone is jailed. Where someone on electronic monitoring is allowed to go - and when - is set by the police chief.

If an offender violates the parameters set locally by police, they come back to jail without adding new offenses – unless new crimes are committed.

"They are remanded without an additional criminal charge," Police Chief Bart Hinkle said.

A willful failure will send an offender back to the department of corrections.

"You want that hammer," Williams said.

VPD will receive $10,000 from DOC for the first offender it monitors under the new program, with up to five offenders allowed before DOC is forced to pony up more cash.

"It certainly saves the state money," Williams said, "... and if there is a failure they are still in the system."

So who decides if an offender gets electronic monitoring versus going to jail?

"It is going to be up to the chief and the magistrate," Williams said.

Hinkle said later that the process is part of a presentence report – a candidate for monitoring will be sent to Hinkle, who then can protest it if he feels there are mitigating circumstances that would make electronic monitoring a poor choice.

"It's not going to be a popularity contest," Hinkle said, which would set the program up for failure.

As Valdez has been using electronic monitoring "for some time" for some offenders who are not yet sentenced, monitoring an actual sentence will minimally impact the police department.

"We have the training, we have the equipment," Hinkle said, adding "The cost is really zero."


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