BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Inmates at the Lee County Correctional Center may be wearing monitoring devices on authorized leaves starting in January.
Lee County Sheriff-Elect Stacy Weber said Wednesday morning that he wants to implement the plan when he takes office the morning of Jan. 3. Weber said one of the benefits of the program is that taxpayers won’t shoulder the cost.
“As we speak right now my jail administrator and one of the Captains are meeting with a GPS monitoring company,” Weber said. “Any inmate that leaves our jail whether it be for a work release or furloughed inmate for medical, funeral services will be required to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet to track their whereabouts at all time.”
Weber said if an inmate wants to leave they have to pay for the monitor. He said the GPS company would charge six dollars a day for the monitoring service and his plan is to charge inmates $10/day and put extra the four in the pool to help indigent inmates who are eligible for house arrest or are deemed to be a no-flight risk.
Weber said he doesn’t think the move will need approval from the Lee County Board of Supervisors because no contract would exist with the GPS company.
Immediately if they cut them off, it sends us an immediate notification of where their last location was.
“This is great way to monitor them. The tech is available and we’re going to use it and I think it’s only fair the inmates pay for it. They got themselves into the jail if they want to leave they should pay for that,” he said.
He also pointed to additional savings to taxpayers that could be realized figuring in meals at about $9.75 per day. If inmates were released on a home-monitor basis the Sheriff’s department would still know where they are, the offender is at home for meals. If the monitors are disabled or cut off, the sheriff’s department would get an immediate notification as to the offender’s last location at the point of disruption.
Weber said this also helps reduce the amount of release abuses that have occurred in the past.
“Work releases have been abused. I’ve actually had to go get them when they were supposed to be on work release and they were just lounging. That’s not going to happen with me. We can now make sure they truly have a job if they are a flight risk. And that work release is a privilege not a right. If he/she wants to keep a job they’re gonna have to pay for that bracelet.
Weber said the monitors will also help keep deputies out on the road where they can respond to incidents in minutes not 20 minutes.
“Trying to spread it out as far as I can. Implement something like this now and protect our citizens and allow inmates to keep their jobs and the funds don’t come from taxpayers.”
Weber also pointed to several changes in the department he will be implementing when he takes office. The department will have a paid civilian jail administrator for the first time in more than 20 years. He said he wanted to try the change to encourage upward mobility in the corrections staff and show some structure at the same time. John Canida will serve as the administrator and he will report to Capt. Craig Burch, who was promoted by current Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl.
Weber said he sees Burch splitting his time 50/50 with jail duties and serving as a deputy.
“Primarily I see him 50/50 walking the walk in the jail and handling processes. I want there to be some checks and balances here and that’s what were going to provide with that layer of supervision.
“It’s something that I wanted to try and we’ve got some good people in our jail department and I wanted to provide them some structure. Someone could come in here and work for 30 years doing the same thing and retire at the same level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing to move up for. If they want to stay in corrections they look to the Iowa State Penitentiary for better pay. We train them and they move on. What I wanted to do was work on providing structure for some movement.”
The sheriff-elect said he has found a few ways to help pay for the position in the current budget including changing phone systems at the department which could save about $1,000 a month. The current budget was submitted by Sholl and Weber said he’s gone through the budget and found some places to change some systems. In six months he will be able to build his own budget and include the position.
He also named Deputy Sheriff Will Conlee to be his Chief Deputy.
“Will’s a natural leader and comes from good people,” Weber said. “His dad, Bob, retired as a deputy right when I came on, and Will’s been in the military so he brings a lot to the table.”