Is electronic monitoring worth the risk after the escape of sex offender?

Police and New York State parole officers continue to look for escaped parolee Shane Jacobs, a level 2 sex offender. Police say Jacobs cut off his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet last week. It was discovered Monday near the Trumansburg school complex in Tompkins County prompting a lockdown of the three schools on the campus.

The situation focuses attention on the electronic monitoring of criminals as part of their parole or probation. According to Onondaga County Probation Commissioner, Andy Sicherman, the ankle bracelets are supposed to be tough to remove, but not impossible. "It can be cut. It can be sheared off with a knife or scissors. Doing so however would indicate that the bracelet has been tampered with and would give notification to our staff."

Electronic monitoring devises are becoming increasingly more common. Five weeks ago, Oswego county began using them as a way to cut down on overcrowding at the county jail. According to Oswego County Probation Director Debbie Meyer, "There's a little bit of risk of course with anyone who is out in the community. But we believe that by being able to monitor their movement in live real time, we can keep pretty good track of where they are."

So far ankle bracelets have been assigned to only five individuals who were released from jail. The offenders can not stray into forbidden territory such as bars, or near a victim's home. Every minute of every day, the bracelets transmit the locations of the offenders to a computer system.

The savings to taxpayers can be considerable. Meyer says it costs $7.00 a day to monitor someone in home confinement versus $100.00 a day to keep him in jail.

Meyer figures in just the past five weeks, Oswego County has saved $12,000 in jail expenses for just five people. Meyer says all of them have complied with the requirements of their release from jail. She says Oswego County is preparing to order five more electronic monitors.