INDIANAPOLIS — Some Marion County judges feel pressured to sentence people to electronic monitoring rather than jail or prison. They add this ideally gives a person a chance to work instead of sitting in a cell.
However, unless a judge rules someone indigent, they must pay money every day to wear the monitors. For some convicted offenders, that means $14 per day.
Marion County Community Corrections Executive Director Scott Hohl said we had more than 4,000 people wearing electronic monitors, both pre-trial and post-conviction, in 2020 pre-COVID.
“We have more clients in the city of Indianapolis than say Chicago and a lot of other large jurisdictions,” Hohl said.
We asked Hohl why judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to electronic monitoring at such a high rate.
“I don’t have a firm answer on what that is,” Hohl said. “I mean, ultimately, electronic monitoring is another option, sentencing option, available and so it is utilized widely here in Marion County.”
The private company, Track Group, supplies the electronic devices to Community Corrections and the Marion County Probation Department. Community Corrections pays the company $200,000 annually plus Track Group charges each client per device.
MCCC monitors post-conviction clients and charges them up to $14 each day, but Hohl said it is an average of $7 each day. The judge can rule a person indigent and therefore they pay $0. The probation department monitors those people who are awaiting trial. They are charged $5 a day, unless they are ruled indigent.
According to MCCC, about 13% of their $18 million total budget comes from daily fees paid by their clients. They add roughly 49% comes from local tax dollars.
“In lieu of the cash bail bond system, they’re being put on the electronic monitoring system,” Rick Snyder, Fraternal Order of Police President, said. “We’re seeing time and time those alleged, repeat, convicted violent offenders are removing those monitors and going and committing new alleged acts of crime.”
For years, Snyder has been vocal about lawyers and judges letting repeat, violent, convicted people serve their sentences or await trials for new crimes while wearing monitors instead of serving jail time. Snyder questions where the money collected from the daily fees is going, and who is making up the cost for people not paying $14 each day.
“I have no idea,” Snyder said when asked where he believes the money is going. “I mean it has to be going to the company that’s providing the service. Correct? The money is still there. It’s just being shifted to the offender.”
Track Group has an office in downtown Indy where they service the devices.
“They actually moved their operation, or their bigger office here, because we were such a high-volume user,” Hohl said. “It was in response to our volume as opposed to the other way around.”
So, the question remains, is Marion County’s monitoring system keeping people out of jail?
“I can’t determine a recidivism rate because I don’t have access to every database I would need,” Hohl said. “I can tell you if an individual left our program and then returned. But I don’t, I don’t necessarily know if six months after they left community corrections, they committed another offense and got arrested.”