ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Just five weeks after a man wearing a Lee County electronic monitor is charged with shooting an Albany store owner, Lee County officials change the company handling that monitoring.
A Judge and the Sheriff says this new company will protect South Georgia much better than their old providers.
Walter Phelps was buried Wednesday. He died Saturday. The Albany hardware store owner was shot at his business July 3rd. The man charged with shooting him was wearing an electronic monitor from Lee County court.
Now court and law enforcement officials have put a new company in charge of monitoring inmates released from jail.
A siren will sound when the new Secure Alert electronic monitors are prompted. It's this technology that led county officials to change companies.
"It has several safety features that our provider does not have," said Magistrate Judge Jim Thurman.
The Judge and Sheriff were looking for a more reliable and technologically-advanced electronic monitor provider before Walter Phelps' shooting.
"I think it's going to protect the people a whole lot more than what we've had in the past," said Sheriff Reggie Rachals.
The Secure Alert monitors are the same ones used by the state of Georgia and a majority of middle and south Georgia counties. The monitor keeps track of where the inmate goes by GPS satellite, and can be programmed to alert monitors if he leaves the area he is assigned to, or goes to an area he is restricted from. The monitors can talk to the inmate through a built in cell phone, and set off a siren to warn people around him.
The monitors are expected to be a big tax money saver. It costs $11 a day, while keeping a person in jail is $45 a day.
"With non violent misdemeanor offenders it's going to be a tremendous help, if you just look at the medical expense alone," Thurman said.
With increasing numbers of people charged with bad checks or shoplifting, the monitors will help Lee County keep those people working.
"They need to be able to get out of jail, take care of their family, and take care of the fine, they need to work," Rachals said
Judge Thurman says they do not expect to let any violent offenders out of jail on electronic monitoring, but they will be able to keep track of all offenders wearing the monitors movements, trying to find a happy medium of keeping people safe and saving tax payer money by not overcrowding the jail.
Dougherty County officials report that their electronic monitoring program saved more than $1,176,000 from March 2009 to July 2010. Lee County's jail currently has more than 80 inmates locked up.
Judge Thurman says there are 24 inmates with electronic monitoring devices in Lee County now. They will be switched over to this new provider as quickly as possible.
Here are some links if you want to learn more about how these monitors work-