Changes coming for problematic Orleans prisoner monitoring

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A pair of high-profile attacks by suspects wearing electronic monitoring devices led to harsh criticism of the program run by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. Now a local bail bondsman is proposing a plan to revamp the system.

A pizza delivery driver was killed and an Uptown woman was robbed and badly beaten recently by two teens wearing electronic monitoring bracelets. The robbery victim said she felt lucky to be alive.

"It was very difficult to hear that the next night they actually went and killed someone, because that could have been me," the woman said.

Those incidents - coupled with a scathing report from the inspector general - caused Sheriff Marlin Gusman to announce he was getting out of the electronic monitoring business after the first of the year. On Tuesday the NOPD confirmed they are working with the sheriff to implement a monitoring program into the new year.

Bail bondsman Matt Dennis offers a new system to judges at Criminal Court that uses GPS and 3G cell technology to notify in real time if someone under monitoring tries to cut off the titanium band.

"Judge can call directly from the courtroom," said Dennis, with Steve's Bail Bonds. "It has a unique band, stainless wraparound - infrared, and fiber optic."

We decided to put the system, to the test. The ankle bracelet tracked our every move around a city block. It also sounded an alert when we entered an office that had been set up as an exclusion zone - a feature that could be used for sex offenders prohibited from entering schools.

"Somebody violates a rule, it sets the alarm, they will have to address that alarm on the spot, and then have enforcement teams on the street driving around," said Dennis.

Dennis said the system, if done right, can go a long way toward achieving many of the prison population reductions many have been fighting for.

He said his system can be lees expensively and more effectively using his already established network of bail bondsmen. The goal: to make sure defendants are where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be there.

"I've been doing this for over 20 years. I have 7,000 people that i supervise pre-trial," said Dennis.

He believes with proper monitoring, bond amounts can be reduced, freeing up defendants' money to pay for lawyers. Dennis proposes using his program for pre-trial offenders as a substitute for high bonds. If successful, he says he will attempt to bid on post-trial monitoring.

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