A bracelet for every sized ankle … no this isn’t the latest fashion accessory to hit the market, this is the Judiciary of Guam’s newest program to keep tabs on pre-trial release defendants and once it’s on, big brother will know your every step.
Judiciary Communications Director Shawn Gumataotao gave PNC a sneak peak into how this program will roll out.
“We have an implementation date of August 1st so since July 1st, when the contract was awarded to Buddi U.S. LLC, the judiciary is just wanting to make sure that we can get this thing up and underway. We have already had our briefings with pre-trial service division of probation and they have had a chance to kind of go through it a little bit more in detail. Because they are actually the lead division in the actual entire program,” Gumataotao said.
While two years ago it was anticipated that 100 pre-trial defendants would pilot the program, today Gumataotao says the numbers aren’t set in stone but the benefits will help not only the Judiciary.
“Again, it goes back to what will get adjudicated at the Guam Judicial Center. A hundred could be helpful for lowering the population at the Department of Corrections and DOC has made it clear that they welcome this program because it will really help reduce some costs. But it could be any number right now,” Gumataotao said.
He added: “Right now everybody is concerned about the safety of the community but this is one tool that we will be able to use to help make sure that the community is much safer.”
Gone will be the days of high-risk absconders falling off the radar. After an electronic monitoring device is placed on a pre-trial defendant’s ankle it cannot be removed except with the use of a special device.
Any tampering with the device and any failure to keep the device operational will send it into vibration mode which alerts probation services. Gumataotao says if this happens the pre-trial releasee will need to immediately call probation services. Likewise, if the pre-trial releasee sets foot in areas they are not allowed in, the device will alert authorities at the court. But the tool is just that … a tool.
“The electronic monitoring program is a tool for judicial officers to have in their tool kit to ensure that defendants, number one, make it back to court and number two, are able to comply with court orders. So this is going to be complementary to the judges’ ability to ensure that they are supervised, making their court appearances and that they are complying. So it’s very complimentary,” Gumataotao said.
But will all pre-trial release defendants be able to stay out of jail with an ankle bracelet strapped on?
“For the judicial officers, they are saying well maybe the electronic monitoring program is not for them. Maybe they don’t have a working power or telephone line, so it will have to be petitioned by defense attorneys and it’s not going to be automatic,” Gumataotao said.
So how will this program be funded? And will the pre-trial release defendant be responsible for any costs to wear the ankle bracelet?
“Right now, this is for primarily for the indigent. We will be targeting pre-trial those who are indigent on medium to high risk. We are working to adopt a fee schedule, it will be this month for those who can pay for it. Obviously, it would be of help to us but right now, it’s for pre-trial to get this out there and be used by our judges,” Gumataotao said.
At this time Gumataotao is unable to provide an estimated cost as the Judicial Council will not be making a ruling on a fee schedule until next week. The program’s implementation date is set for August 1st.