Trust after the bust is a must

Program monitors defendants awaiting court dates

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Montezuma County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Rossi displays an ankle monitor used in the pre-trial services program. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Montezuma County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Rossi displays an ankle monitor used in the pre-trial services program.

Defendants awaiting trial, who bond out of the Montezuma County Detention Center, will be monitored to ensure they are complying with the stipulations set by the court.

Discussions about pre-trial services in Montezuma County started in October 2011 at the behest of District Court Judge Douglas Walker. The program kicked off Jan. 1, 2012.

Walker decided the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office was the best equipped to handle the program.

Sheriff Dennis Spruell said there are two main benefits to the pre-trial services program - reducing the jail population and having a better way to track defendants who are out on bail to ensure they comply with the rules relating to their release from jail.

Spruell said the pre-trial services program has been well received across the country.

The program is a condition defendants need to comply with to be allowed to bond out.

Before this program was implemented defendants were able to bond out with stipulations, but there was no one supervising or monitoring them to ensure they were complying.

The sheriff's office has three full-time employees and their supervisor who run the program. It is funded by a $50 monthly fee defendants are required to pay.

Of the more than 100 inmates the detention center was housing in early December, about 30 percent are eligible to be released through this program, but they still must be able to come up with the bail amount.

Spruell said the courts who decide the type of restrictions a defendant needs to be on. One of the harshest restrictions is home incarceration, where that person is not allowed to leave their residence.

"We are working with the courts to monitor them," Spruell said. These defendants are reminded when their next court date is approaching.

Defendants either are interviewed after or before release from jail by staff working in this program, with the contents of that interview given to the judge to help him make a decision on the type of stipulations.

Sgt. Garet Talley said there are two main types of monitors used in the program.

Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, allows authorities to check a person's alcohol content through perspiration, while the other monitor tracks a person's movements.

Talley said when a defendant has been issued a protection order, alerts can be set up to notify law enforcement when the person nears a restricted location.

"It sends us an alert," Talley said. "We can track anyone to where they have been."

The ankle bracelets are not supplied by the sheriff's office.

There is also an additional fee for those wearing the ankle monitors, and Talley said downloading the information on a monitor once a week would cost $5 a day.

Spruell explained that the pre-trial services program has different levels based on the person and the crime they are accused of committing.

Level I is very mild supervision, which could be one phone-in call a week; Level III could require numerous in-person visits with their case manager.

Talley said if the court decided random drug testing is also needed that will also be required at the defendant's expense.

Currently, there have been 125 people who have been placed in the program, and about 30 percent of them have violated the stipulations and were returned to jail.

Spruell said that number is way too high and wishes the percentage was lower.

Talley said judges often will give the violators a second chance, allowing them to post bond again with the same stipulations. Out of that 30 percent, 10 percent never finish pre-trial services.

Spruell said defendants know the alternatives to these stipulations, which usually means a trip back to jail.

"It gives them a real incentive to get their cases over soon," he said. "As long as they behave themselves they can remain free. It is a win-win situation for everyone, if it is done correctly."

michaelm@cortezjournal.com