Jail Committee Votes To Rebid Home Monitoring Provider
Counties Cancel Contract, Seek Alternatives
The Mercer-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee has reversed course, voting to rebid a contract for their home incarceration program. Mercer County Jailer Bret “Chambo” Chamberlain and his staff were to install and remove the units, which officials said would only take about 30 seconds. Jail officials believed approximately 10 inmates a month—nonviolent offenders—would qualify for the home incarcerations program, offering both counties the potential for savings on jail expenses.
By the time the joint jail committee—which changed membership after the first of the year—held their first meeting of 2023 on Friday, Jan. 20, the system was still not up and running. Mercer Judge-Executive Sarah Gray Steele gave a presentation on what the Buddi system actually entails, including speaking with a company representative online.
“This system is a little bit different than what was proposed,” Steele said, noting the system has to be monitored every single day. “I am concerned about that.”
While Steele called the Buddi system “very cool,” she said the system is not self-monitored. Steele also noted there had been no conversation with Chamberlain about the system before the jail committee had approved it. Steele also pointed out the monitors can actually go offline if the wearer went somewhere without internet service.
While Chamberlain called himself a “computer illiterate,” he said with training he could handle the system, but objected to the committee making decisions without consulting him He said he didn’t have the personnel necessary to monitor the system.
“Buddi’s proposal said they would monitor the system,” said Boyle County Administrator Julie Wagner. “There’s a whole other level they never told us about.”
Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford said the jail has nowhere to store the monitors and lacked the staff to monitor offenders on house arrest. Wofford said Boyle County Detention Center is down eight employees, and soon to be down nine.
“It’s like a full-time job to monitor this thing,” said Boyle County Attorney Chris Herron. “It’s too good to be true.”
The original agreement was for six months. Herron said without reason, they could cancel the agreement with a 60 days notice. Boyle County Judge-Executive Trille Bottom said between the fees, training and wages for constant monitoring, the committe would be paying more than if they’d gone with the hghest bidder.
Wofford insisted home incarceration could save the counties on jail expenses, especially medical costs. Under the U.S. constitution, jails must provide medical care to inmates, but offenders on house arrest are responsible for their own medical expenses. Wofford noted the jail could have to buy a prosthetic limb for an inmate at a cost of $16,000. Still, Wofford moved to rebid the contract. The motion passed unanimously.
Wofford invited officials to tour the jail at the committee’s next meeting on Friday, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. in Boyle County.