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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Funding sought for offenders' program in Stryker

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dennis Dennis
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A projected $200,000 funding shortage for the electronic monitoring program at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker, has officials there searching for more ways to finance the jail diversion program.

The deficit, expected to begin in January, is a result of offenders not paying the daily fees associated with the program, said Jim Dennis, executive director at the correctional facility in southwestern Williams County.

Participants are required to pay $10 a day for electronic monitoring and $15.50 for GPS monitoring, Mr. Dennis said.

Nearly three of every five offenders placed on electronic monitoring each day are able to pay.

"There are fees that have to be paid; the equipment costs money," Mr. Dennis said. "We have to pay for that one way or another."

The program, begun in 1996, is designed to allow offenders convicted of misdemeanors or low-level felonies to continue working while they serve their sentences.

Last year, 1,335 people were placed on electronic monitoring rather than being taken into custody, Mr. Dennis said.

The program costs about $690,000 a year, with $240,000 paid for through state grants. The remaining $450,000 is to be paid for by the inmates.

"As the economy has gotten worse, inmates haven't been paying like they had in the past," Mr. Dennis said.

Judges previously had the ability to declare inmates indigent and would then use money from a fund set up for that purpose.

But Toledo Municipal Court Presiding Judge Tim Kuhlman said that fund has been depleted. "The only way to cover the cost [of the program] is for the defendant to cover that cost," he said.

Those unable to pay are put back in jail, which worsens jail overcrowding, Judge Kuhlman said.

One proposal Mr. Dennis made is to make sure participants can afford to pay the cost of the program before ordering that they be placed on electronic monitoring.

At the same time, Mr. Dennis said he realizes that inmates have sporadic employment or are underemployed, making it difficult for them to make payments.

"We look at this stream of money [and] it's being tugged in many different directions," he said. "Everybody would like their money."

Judge Kuhlman said it's important for inmates to maintain their jobs as part of their rehabilitation.

"We want you in a situation where you're not coming back. That's the idea," he said.

Mr. Dennis also suggested having courts offset the costs for indigent participants or limiting the number of them. Other suggestions included hiring a collection agency, having the program be overseen by a private agency, or trying a pay-to-stay policy similar to what is in place at the Lucas County jail.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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