Electronic inmate monitoring funded

The Interim Finance Committee approved a state-of-the-art electronic system Tuesday to track the movement of both inmates and staff when Southern Nevada Correctional Center reopens later this year.

The system, designed by Elmo-Tech, will provide ankle bracelets for each of the more than 600 young offenders who will be housed there and radio tracking and monitoring devices for all staff.

Director of Corrections Glen Whorton said the system will provide "real-time tracking," allowing the prison administration to follow everyone's movements 24 hours a day. He said staff can also look back in time to see where someone was at any given time.

But Sen. Dina Titus and Assemblyman Morse Arberry, both D-Las Vegas, questioned the expenditure in light of the fact they were told there wasn't enough money to put similar ankle bracelets on paroled sex offenders.

"I wanted a tracking system for our most violent sex offenders, and we didn't have the money for that, and now we have this to track offenders who are in prison," she said. "(Sex offenders) are out there in the neighborhoods."

Arberry agreed, saying he doesn't know how to justify that to constituents who want those dangerous offenders to be better monitored.

IFC Chairman Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said corrections officials asked for additional staff, but lawmakers substituted the electronic system to save money.

"We made the decision to do this, not them coming before us," he said. "They're doing what they were asked to do."

Director of Corrections Glen Whorton agreed it would be good to monitor paroled sex offenders as well, but said this program wasn't funded instead of Titus's proposal. He said the prison electronic system was proposed as a less-expensive alternative to fully staffing the prison.

He said the original request for 144 new correctional staff for the prison was reduced to 125 - saving far more in salary costs than the $805,500 contract to install the system.

"If we don't have this monitoring, we'll have to add the staff back in," he said.

Whorton said the prison will house offenders up to about age 25, whom he described as requiring the most supervision, and that the electronic system will provide that monitoring.

Asked about tampering, Elmo-Tech spokesman Andrew Cohen said the system sounds an alarm notifying prison officials immediately if an inmate tampers with the bracelet or leaves the prison for any reason.

He said the system is working well in four other states and several more considering it.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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