As Orleans sheriff pulls out of prisoner monitoring, city moves In

As Orleans sheriff pulls out of prisoner monitoring, city moves in
Published: Sep. 22, 2015 at 8:33 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2015 at 8:49 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city says there will be a new deal to run the prisoner electronic monitoring system next month, and while some worry that an undermanned police department may be called on to pick up the slack, city officials say they're looking at all options - including privatization.

The Orleans sheriff currently monitors 55 people with electronic bracelets in a program that the sheriff says is going away - and that's causing concern.

"The reason the Sheriff's Office is stepping away is, just like the NOPD, it's manpower," said Rafael Goyeneche, who heads the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Court watchers say the sheriff's monitoring costs have gotten out of control because judges often assign free monitors to criminals who should pay for their own.

"Quit putting those people out on the sheriff's bracelet," said local bail bondsman and monitor vendor Matt Dennis.

But what happens next?

"We plan to next month announce what that approach will be, we're looking at all options," said Charles West with the city's Office of Criminal Justice Coordination.

He said the sheriff's exit was no surprise. They never signed a contract and were cutting staff.

"Over the past year, they've reduced the numbers of deputies involved to three," West said.

But some worry that if the NOPD is called on it might require as many as 10 police officers that are badly needed on the streets.

"They cannot justify that manpower," Dennis said.

The jail may be new, but many of the problems are old. People close to the situation say whatever deal is worked out, all sides need to work together - something that hasn't always been easy to achieve.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, and I'm applying logic because it's so important from a public safety perspective," said Goyeneche.

If management of the electronic bracelet program is transferred to NOPD, the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the police department is already on board, providing recruits to handle some functions.

"As far as I'm concerned right now, it's on track. There's a nice blend of police management on top of this," Goyeneche said.

But many worry about the NOPD option and possibly taking officers from a department that's been criticized for taking too long to respond to calls. At the current staffing levels, Goyeneche says it might take just three extra New Orleans officers to monitor bracelets, but he said the 55 bracelets currently out is a low number.

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