SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - With and more and more so-called non-violent convicted felons being transferred from the California State Prison system to already crowded local county jails under AB 109, one state legislator wants to expand the GPS electronic monitoring programs to accommodate the prison realignment.
"We are really experiencing what is putting a great stress on our county jails", says 14th District State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla who has introduced Assembly Bill 2499, "this bill would allow the Sheriff along with his County Board of Supervisors to expand the electronic monitoring program to some of these prisoners that have been sent back to county jail."
Boniall says AB 2499 would help County Sheriff and County Probation Departments by making the law more current, workable and consistent.
"Again, its not the violent offenders, its not those who've committed any kind of sex crimes", Bonilla says, "it is an opportunity to make sure that there's room for the prisoners that actually need to be behind bars."
In Santa Barbara County, there are 52 adults in the Probation Department's electronic monitoring program, about half are in the Santa Barbara area and about 40 percent in Santa Maria according to the most recent statistics.
Most of those in the program are AB 109 offenders.
Three full-time Deputy Probation Officers manage the electronic monitoring program caseload which costs the County about $385,000 a year, the three staff positions are paid for under AB 109 or SB 678.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department operates its own electronic monitoring program.
Those in the electronic monitoring program are supervised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the GPS technology and a monitoring vendor under contract with the County.
Violators, including those who tamper with or remove the devices or fail to keep them fully charged, are subject to arrest with AB 109 offenders facing up to 180 days in custody.
Expanding GPS monitoring to ease jail and prison overcrowding carries some concern from those in the community.
"If there are misdemeanor type offenses and where they don't need to be locked up and they think it can be handled outside of the police watch then yeah, I think that's okay, depending on the offense of course", says Santa Maria resident Nicki Cabanting, "there is a fine line but I don't know exactly where it would be, for me I wouldn't want the sex offender out running around that has recently done something that deserves to be locked up but because of the crowding they let him out with a bracelet, you know."
According to the most recent state statistics, there are about 8,000 parolees and felons, most of them sex offenders or gang members, in California wearing GPS monitoring devices.