Monitors going on juvenile offenders in Houston

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

Youngsters who commit a crime in Houston may get a bracelet for the holidays, but it’s not from Santa Claus.

The Chickasaw County Youth Court has put its first ankle bracelets on three youngsters convicted in youth court recently and hope the electronic monitors will put a dent in juvenile crime.

“We have about a half dozen cases that this form of punishment should fit,” said Elizabeth Fox Ausbern, County Attorney and youth court prosecutor. “Ankle bracelets are not the solution to every case but it does give the court another option.”

The City of Houston began pondering putting electronic ankle monitors on juvenile offenders in March and even contacted Chickasaw County and Okolona city officials seeking additional funding for the program.

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

The bracelets are currently being used on youngsters who commit a crime in Houston.

The process is simple.

Juveniles who are convicted in youth court are sentenced to receive an ankle bracelet and told the time and places they can be. Juveniles who violated the terms of the court by tampering with an ankle bracelet or violating the electronic perimeter are shipped off to juvenile facilities in Tupelo.

The bracelets cost $10 per day and the cost is off-set by court-imposed fines. It costs roughly $100 a day to house a youngster in a certified juvenile detention center in Tupelo, Columbus or Corinth.

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 the bracelet and don’t want the offender around.

Houston Town Marshal Billy Voyles said word is getting out among youth about the new program and he hopes it catches on.

“I’m for it and I think it will work if we stick with it and enforce it,” said Voyles. “If they violate their perimeter, cut the bracelet off or commit another crime they need to be shipped off to Tupelo.”

Ausbern agreed.

“If we give these kids a chance and make the parents responsible for the actions of their kids, maybe we can turn a few of them around,” said Ausbern. “It won’t work in every situation, but I do feel it will work in certain circumstances.”

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

The device has GPS and can determine if a youngster was near a location where a crime occurred. It can also be used to make sure kids are home by their court-imposed 7 p.m. curfew.

Juveniles typically wearing 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.