Bellingham’s New & Innovative Jail Alternatives Program

 

Recently, the Bellingham City Council approved a new and innovative program to expand alternatives to incarceration and help reduce Whatcom County Jail overcrowding issues.

The Bellingham Reduced Incarceration Challenge (BRIC) program allows eligible defendants to serve their incarceration through a private, non-profit agency, Friendship Diversion Services (FDS).

ELECTRONIC HOME MONITORING UNDER THE BRIC PROGRAM

Here, FDS provides jail alternatives such as Electronic Home Detention (EHD) and monitoring through such devices as SCRAM once the defendant is screened and deemed eligible. GPS technology allows 24-hour monitoring. Participants on EHD must remain in their residence unless the Court permits them to leave for a specific purpose. However, they may leave the home for certain verified periods for approved activities to include school, work, treatment, counselling, probation/parole, medical/ dental appointments, scheduled court hearings, attorney appointments and child care provisions.

While there are fees associated with this jail alternative, the costs are significantly lower than traditional jail and/or jail alternatives.

Even more attractive, this alternative sentencing program is especially helpful for those with medical issues that prevent them from serving traditional jail or alternatives since they can serve their sentence at home and continue their prescribed medical treatment.

ELIGIBILITY

Anyone serving through FDS must meet statutory eligibility criteria, a screening assessment and have a sentence of more than one day. The present costs associated with FDS commitment is as follows:

*$50 hook-up fee (for ankle bracelet)

*$14.50 per day (GPS)

*$25.00 per day (GPS and SCRAM)

All defendants will be eligible to apply for financial assistance if FDS finds that they qualify as low income during the intake screening process.

HOW IT WORKS

At sentencing, the Court enters a Home Detention Order (HDOR) authorizing the defendant to serve his/her sentence through FDS, if eligible. Any request for credit for time served (CFTS) should be presented with verification at the time of sentencing. The defendant is then initially screened to determine eligibility. If deemed eligible, the defendant must comply by first contacting FDS by phone within 1 business day to set an intake appointment. At sentencing, the defendant signs a promise to appear for a Jail Review scheduled approximately 2 weeks after sentencing. That review hearing is stricken once the Court receives confirmation from FDS that the defendant has complied. A sample copy of this HDOR is attached. If requesting credit for time served (CFTS) towards any jail recommendation, the attorneys should come prepared at sentencing with documentation verifying any jail already served since the Court cannot obtain that information.

Any violations of the HDOR are reviewed by the Court to determine appropriate sanctions including removing the defendant from the FDS program and withholding jail alternatives for the balance of the sentence.

The Court intends to expand the BRIC program to encourage rehabilitation and reintegration. These programs benefit both the individual and the community. Programs being considered, among other things include re-licensing, theft awareness classes and even the possibility of work crews.

My opinion? I’m impressed. The BRIC program is a new and innovative way to facilitate EHM without having to get Whatcom County Jail Alternatives or a private home monitoring company involved. Good stuff.