The small black boxes come in three variations and secure tightly to the ankle with a sturdy plastic band. Inside the band, a fibrous material measures any tampering.
The Radio Frequency (RF) is a wireless system used for offenders on house arrest.
“There is a base station in the offender’s home that allows the offender on house arrest to be incarcerated in their home,” said Catlin about the RF. “The difference is they are allowed to work (rather than go to jail) so they don't loose their job.”
House arrest is more than being able to work, in some cases it means people can keep their houses and send children to school.
GPS (global positioning system) ankle monitoring is somewhat new technology. These devices are tracked with satellite and mostly used on the state level for sex offenders, domestic violence, burglary and restraining orders.
Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson said the GPS ankle monitors are beneficial in some cases. In the prior case of a sexual predator, evidence against this individual was documented with GPS, according to Wilson.
“There are many good and useful ways for monitoring offenders,” said Wilson. “This is another useful tool to add to the tool belt in law enforcement. All these tools together can make a difference.”
Specific companies monitor offenders with GPS by putting up invisible fences at high alert places. In many cases GPS is used for investigative purposes, according to Wilson.
Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) is the most advanced ankle bracelet. These devices are specifically used for alcohol monitoring by electronically measuring ethanol on the skin. A one-year sentence on the SCRAM device could be the first time functioning alcoholics are alcohol-free, according to Catlin
“Every hour it tests for alcohol use,” said Catlin. “Everything we drink, eat and smoke comes out through our skin.”
A small sensor detects alcohol use the same way blood is analyzed in a lab. Catlin expects drug use detection systems to be available in a few more years.
“If you consume it, we'll know it,” said Catlin.
Ankle monitoring is a way to rehabilitate offenders and save taxpayer money by lessening the jail population. With ankle bracelets the offenders pay for the device. RF and GPS ankle monitors cost $10.50 a day; SCRAM monitors are $12 a day. Incarceration of healthy inmates can cost the taxpayers almost $50 per day.
“Any time we can offer an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders it will be a cost savings,” said Catoosa County sheriff Gary Sisk.
The population at the Catoosa County jail was very close to capacity at the end of December, according to Sisk, who favors alternative sentencing.
“I anticipate it to continue to increase (jail population) if more is not done,” Sisk said.
The offenders are charged with a violation if they do not pay for the ankle bracelets. But the whole point in do-ing the program is to offer reform, according to Catlin, who works with each individual.
“Most people comply with the program because they want to stay out of jail and they are paying for it (the ankle bracelets),” said Catlin.
The bracelets can be stipulated in the bond agreement, court ordered by a judge, required by probation officers and used independently by parents. The DUI School operates the monitoring company and leases the equipment. It is a private company working with the government to offer reform.
“Our jails can sometimes be overcrowded and this alternative sentencing method allows offenders to be functioning members of society,” said Catlin. “It means a lot to me to have someone tell me the program saved their life. If we can all just get on board, it (ankle monitors) will save lives and save county money.”
Catlin plans to expand her company throughout the county for customer convenience. For more information contact Catlin at the Catoosa DUI Driving School at 706-935-4384.