NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A private company has now moved in to provide an electronic monitor to an Orleans parish defendant who has just pleaded guilty to heroin charges.
The new company steps in as the sheriff's office looks for a juvenile who cut his bracelet off under a monitoring program run by the sheriff.
A local bail bondsman says for the first time since the electronic monitoring program was taken over by the sheriff, an Orleans judge has approved a bond that allows his private company, and not the sheriff, to install a monitor on an inmate. The inmate pays for the monitor.
"I've been doing this for 20 years," said bail bondsman Matt Dennis. "I have 7,000 people that I supervise pre-trial."
Dennis formed a new company called Alternatives to Incarceration. It provides electronic monitors, as opposed to the sheriff's program, which was targeted in a blistering report by the inspector general after a juvenile on a monitor was arrested for murder.
But in addition to Alternatives to Incarceration, there is also a proposal to have NOPD run the program.
"I'm very hopeful that NOPD will take this over, and I believe they have the capacity to do it," said Jason Williams, a city councilman who sits on the council's criminal justice committee.
"I think we need to hope that this will continue to be operated by law enforcement, and all components will be committed to sitting down and working with the sheriff," said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Goyeneche admits there have been problems with the sheriff's electronic monitoring program, but he says most have involved complex juvenile cases.
"With juvenile offenders you would get three strikes before a sheriff could go in and make an arrest," he said.
Though Dennis would like to bid on the program, for now he says it's just being used as a supplement to bonds, which are used to keep track of certain defendants.
No matter who runs the program, it looks like it's here to stay.
"It's a great program when implemented properly, and it's essential that we keep it," said Williams.
While talks continue to keep the sheriff involved, Dennis will be talking to judges in hopes of getting more of them to order monitors from his company.
Though there have been problems with private and publicly run monitoring programs in the past, Goyeneche believes it's in the public interest to have electronic monitoring programs with public oversight.