Houston moves toward purchase of ankle bracelets

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

The problem is not just Houston’s and city fathers had hoped the county and other municipalities would join them in addressing juvenile crime.

The Houston mayor and aldermen met recently in a special called meeting to once again consider ankle bracelets as a cost effective and potent method of punishing youth offenders.

“I have said it before, we need to do something for kids in Houston,” said Mayor Stacy Parker. “No one else seems to want to speak to it – nothing – and I think we need to step up and act.”

The city began pondering putting electronic ankle monitors on juvenile offenders in March and even called a special meeting of county and state agencies and court officials to discuss the issue.

Parker and Alderman Barry Springer approached the county in April asking them to join the city in funding this program.

The city has been told a similar program in Amory saw juvenile crime drop almost 300 percent in a matter of months.

“The judges are for it and our police department is for it,” said Parker. “I want to ask the people who sell and maintain those ankle bracelets to come and meet with us and let’s get some firm prices and go.”

Parker said initial quotes said bracelets would cost between $5 and $12 per day and the cost could be off-set by court-imposed fines. Juveniles who violated the terms of the court by tampering with an ankle bracelet or violating the electronic perimeter would then be shipped off to juvenile facilities in Tupelo.

“I hate to say this, but I think if we start this and make an example of anyone who doesn’t straighten up, it will work,” said Alderman Tony Uhiren. “The word will get out among kids to not commit a crime in Houston. They need to learn there are consequences for their actions.”

Uhiren did say there will be up-front costs to the city and court fees will be used down the road to maintain the program.

“I think this will always cost us money, but if it straightens out kids, it will be worth it,” said Uhiren. “And if we see it doesn’t work, we haven’t spent a lot of money and we can get out of it.”

Parker also pointed out the bracelets can also be used on adults.

“Right now we are paying $30 a day every time we carry someone to the jail,” said Parker. “We can put an ankle bracelet on them, they can stay home and take care of themselves.”

One of the city’s current expenses has city inmates asking to go to the dentist or doctor while they are incarcerated and Houston taxpayers picking up the bill.

Chickasaw County also has one of the highest dropout rates in the state and ankle bracelets can be used to monitor truancy.

Juveniles typically wear the bracelet for 10 to 12 days. Parents who fail to pay for the cost of ankle bracelets can be held in contempt of court and face more serious fines and possible jail time.

One feature of ankle bracelets is once the youth gets outside their established perimeter, an audible alarm goes off. If they are with friends, the group realizes the police will soon show up looking for them and don’t want the offender around.

Agencies represented at the March meeting included Youth Court, Chickasaw County Family and Children’s Services, School Attendance Office, Region 3 Mental Health Services, Chickasaw County Jail, Houston Police Department and Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department. Chickasaw County Supervisors David Gene Walters and Russell King were also present.