Athens court invests in new ankle monitors as alternative to jail for defendants

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Athens County Municipal Court has invested in new ankle monitors that will allow more defendants to stay out of jail while their cases are moving through the courts.

Court Clerk Tonya Dye said the court is working to create a system that allows for more leniency on bail and instead uses the ankle monitoring system to track a defendant’s whereabouts.

“In southeast Ohio, there is a lot of poverty,” Dye said. “The ankle monitoring system would allow them to not remain in jail while their case is pending.”

Dye also stressed the importance of complications that are created for those who do sit in jail on bail but have yet not been found guilty of a crime. 

“By keeping them in jail, they lose access to social support, their family, they may lose access to their job, and if they lose access to their job that could also impact their housing stability, and if they have kids they may also lose custody,” Dye said. 

The new ankle monitoring system tracks how fast a person is moving, which can indicate their way of travel such as by foot or in a vehicle. 

It also tracks a person from point to point using GPS to see if they are only going to the places they need to be and taking the routes they need to take.

Funding for the new monitors came from the Ohio Supreme Court. Earlier this year the court ruled that the amount of bail should be based only on how much is needed to ensure a defendant returns to court.

The court said other considerations, such as public safety, cannot factor into the amount of bail.

What this means is that bail will be based in large part on a defendant’s financial situation. It was expected that the decision would result in fewer defendants sitting in jail pending trial. And in its decision the court suggested ankle monitors as an option if a judge has concerns about a defendant.

Dye said a main priority for Municipal Court Judge Todd Grace is to reduce the number of defendants who are not in jail and then fail to appear in court. 

In addition to the ankle monitoring system, the court is also working on upgrading its case management system, including using text messages to alert defendants of upcoming court dates.