County to improve monitor devices

Bartholomew County is upgrading equipment used to monitor individuals serving sentences involving home detention or alcohol abuse.

The Bartholomew County commissioners have approved buying 20 electronic monitoring devices that operate on cellular signals.

The ankle bracelets will be purchased from BI Inc. at a cost of $39,000, said Rob Gaskill, director of residential services for Bartholomew County Court Services.

The bracelets are specifically designed to help the court services department monitor individuals who don’t have a landline phone, he said.

Currently, all of the department’s monitoring units have to be plugged into an analog landline telephone. However, telephone providers such as AT&T and Comcast have told the county that analog phone systems will soon disappear, Gaskill said.

Gaskill added that the county has 150 to 160 such analog units, some of which are 10 years old, and all will eventually have to be replaced.

In addition to the ankle bracelets, the county plans to purchase five alcohol monitoring devices and five ankle bracelet units equipped with GPS technology for $15,750.

A state statute requires individuals who commit certain offenses such as battery to be monitored by GPS when they have been sentenced and are placed in the Community Corrections program, he said.

The new alcohol monitoring units will upgrade Community Corrections’ ability to supervise people with alcohol problems more efficiently, Gaskill said.

The hand-held devices can be set to certain times of the day when users are required to take a Breathalyzer test. The equipment will also photograph the person taking the test to make sure the test is being done by the correct individual, Gaskill said.

Those who are ordered to have electronic monitoring in Bartholomew County pay a $10 fee per day.

There is no fee in place for the alcohol monitoring program, but Gaskill said the department plans to work with the Community Corrections advisory board to determine what that cost would be.

Bartholomew County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said the purchases were funded through state grant money. He said the alcohol monitoring devices will keep track of individuals who face alcohol abuse issues.

In addition, the purchases of the ankle bracelet electronic monitoring devices will also help the county stay up-to-date with improved technology, Lienhoop said.

“It’s probably the way the system is moving with the demise of landlines,” he said.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com