A contingent representing the 1st Judicial District Juvenile Probation Division approached the Phillips County Quorum Court Tuesday evening requesting the county to include the electronic monitoring program in the county budget.
“This is the best thing to happen to the Juvenile Division in quite some time,” commented Judge Ann Hudson. “It has gone a long way in helping avoid sending some of our juvenile offenders to a detention center.”
According to Hudson, the grant funding the program has run out. The program may have enough cash on hand to operate the remainder of the month.
“To date, we have had no opportunity to re-apply for grant assistance,” said Hudson. “We have received no notification of any opportunities for grant submission. We need to find a way to continue the program.”
“I am afraid it will cost more in the long run to not continue the program than it will cost to continue funding it,” added Jarvis Smith, juvenile intake officer for the county.
Smith told the JPs that the electronic monitoring program began in April 2012. It serves Phillips, Lee and Monroe counties. The program has had 56 juveniles on electronic monitoring – currently there are seven. There are 10 monitors available for use.
“Electronic monitors are used as 'house arrest', which allows the court to use sanctions other than incarceration,” commented Smith. “Electronic monitoring allows the court system to know the location of a juvenile at all times and permits the court to hold parents accountable for the youngsters.”
Will Tate, also a juvenile intake officer for the county, provided crime statistics for the tri-county area stating that violent crime among juveniles was substantially higher in Phillips, Lee and Monroe counties than national and state averages. However, Tate said, there has been a “significant” reduction in crime and no reported homicides since instituting electronic monitoring.
“The cost for Phillips, Lee and Monroe counties for electronic monitoring is $8.25 a day,” said Tate. “During the year, the program has been operational, the cost has amounted to $55,824.22. The cost for detention at the Independent White River Juvenile Detention Center is $85 per day, which would have cost $153,170. This is saving the county $97,346 plus the cost of personnel transporting to the facility, insurance, gas and other unforeseen expenditures.”
“How much money are you asking for?” asked JP Barbara King. “The county really doesn't have the money.”
Treasurer Becky Gattas added that the county has not received any reimbursement funds for the program since February.
“We need your help,” stressed Smith. “We need funding until we can obtain another grant. Our only alternative is to shut the program down right now.”
Smith said he was wiling to provide the exact figures and present them to the JPs at a special session. The county was expected to address the issue during a called meeting Thursday night after the county had met payroll expenses for the month.