Probation Department Reports on Alternative Sentencing
January 11, 2011
The Placer County Board of Supervisors today dealt with two items related to the County’s alternative sentencing programs. The first was a report on the programs from Chief Probation Officer Stephen G. Pecor. In the second item, the Board approved a cooperative agreement for electronic monitoring equipment used in the programs.
|Stephen G. Pecor
Pecor reported to the Supervisors that in 2010, an average of 170 offenders per month were diverted into alternative sentencing electronic monitoring programs where they can maintain work and family commitments and the County can reduce the costs of incarceration.
The Placer County Probation Department has used electronic monitoring as part of its alternative sentencing programs for 20 years. The programs allow carefully screened offenders to remain in their community under the supervision of probation. They are only allowed to leave their homes for work, school, court ordered counseling, medical appointments or church. The G.P.S electronic monitoring equipment tracks their activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and controls where they must be at certain times as well as restricting areas they cannot be in. All offenders are subject to search and seizure, alcohol and drug testing, payment of fines, fees and victim restitution, program fees and must abide by all other terms and conditions ordered by the court.
The alternative sentencing programs promote public safety by holding offenders accountable for their actions and ensure that court ordered sentences are served. These programs increase the availability of jail beds so that there is capacity to house more serious or problematic offenders. Additionally, there is more capacity at the jail to house offenders who violate program rules.
The agreement approved by the Supervisors is for remote satellite tracking and monitoring for low - to medium - risk offenders. Through the programs, offenders wear an electronic device (usually on their ankle) that cannot be removed. Any attempt to remove the device results in a “tamper” message and the Probation Officer investigates. Offenders are responsible for any damaged equipment and are charged with vandalism or escape if they cut off or remove the device. In addition to participation on the electronic monitoring program, State legislation allows for the use of this technology as a supervision tool to keep track of high-risk sex offenders.
The cost of the electronic monitoring programs will be $440,000 for the entire year, same as in previous years. However, this amount also includes the first-time lease of in-home alcohol detection technology. This will enable the probation officer to observe the offender through video technology using the alcohol breath analyzer, and the results will be received instantaneously. That figure is far less than if the offenders were incarcerated in the Placer County Jail. Alternative sentencing is being used more frequently by Placer and other counties for lower level offenders. Offender paid program fees offset the cost of the program.
Pecor was recently named the Chief Probation Officer of the year by the California Chief Probation Officer Association. The innovative use of alternative sentencing programs was a contributing factor in this selection. Due to the success of these programs, Placer County, unlike most counties, is no longer forced to release large numbers of inmates prior to the completion of their sentences.