Lee Co. bail bondsman new electronic monitoring provider - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lee Co. bail bondsman new electronic monitoring provider

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Law enforcers and prosecutors in several south Georgia counties hope a new electronic monitoring company will better protect you.

Last year confusion about a court order by a national monitoring company may have played a part in the murder of a former Lee County commissioner.

A Lee County bail bond business now has the contract to provide electronic monitoring for most courts in  five counties.  And they promise to offer better service.

Experts say national monitoring services are often outsourced to several businesses, and that often leads to confusion. A South Georgia business man says he will do a better job protecting his community.

July 3rd Walter Phelps was gunned down in his hardware store during an armed robbery, and died one month later. Prosecutors charged Jordan Harris with shooting Phelps, even though he was wearing an ankle monitor while awaiting trial for other armed robberies. The company that was supposed to monitor Harris told us confusion over the court order left him free.

Now ABC Express Bail Bonds owner Steve McGowan has won the contract to provide electronic monitoring for the Southwestern Judicial Circuit probation, covering most courts in Lee , Sumter, Stewart, Webster, and Schley Counties. McGowan says he will do better.

McGowan said "And I have to answer to this. I am accountable because I am not just selling something out of state. I'm selling something to my neighbors, people I see everyday on the street."

McGowan is setting up his own monitoring service, using computer mapping technology devices that track offenders, and alert when they leave where they should be.

Chris Medley with the Bob Barker Company's Electronic Monitoring Program said "They can go to work. They can go anywhere the court will allow them. But they are also excluded from certain places."

State budget cuts will lead to longer waits for trial for many people charged with crimes, and electronic monitoring will be used more to keep them out of jail....saving taxpayer money.

 Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals said "They can go out with this leg monitor on, be monitored through this service, and be able to go back to work until they have to go back to appear in court. I think it's going to be a great thing."

Georgia lawmakers made bail bondsmen eligible to run monitoring services three years ago, knowing they can go after offenders quicker, without having to get a warrant.

McGowan said "The Sheriff can't offer a reward for somebody. I can. I can put money up in his neighborhood and in these tough times your neighbors will give you up for $500 in a heartbeat."

McGowan said because he is local and knows South Georgia, there will be less confusion about court orders, and keep the community safe while avoiding jail overcrowding.

McGowan will begin his electronic monitoring service a week from today, with his first ten offenders. He has already hired four people to staff his monitoring, and will be hiring more in the future.

The Sheriff says electronic monitors save money.  It costs $35 a day to keep an inmate in the Lee County Jail.  People on electronic monitors will pay $11 a day themselves for the service.

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