Electronic monitoring devices, black anklets made of rubber and plastic, are not exactly coveted, but in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, they are certainly in high demand, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Last week, about 1,200 people were wearing the monitoring units, mostly used to enforce house arrest for those convicted of minor criminal offenses. Another 925 people were waiting for them. The electronic monitoring waiting list started ballooning about a year ago, about the same time the court introduced a program to expedite minor cases.
“It worked overly well,” said Judge Beth Lazzara, one of two judges who hear cases through the program, called the Phoenix docket. A backlog of cases poured through, about 4,000 since January. On average, people stay on the waiting list for four to six months, usually serving a less restrictive probation term until a device is available. Their electronic monitoring sentence does not start until they put on an anklet. The county owns only 1,200 of the devices, which cost about $2,500 each. At any time, more than 2,000 people are required to wear them. Said probation official Frank Scherer: “If we were able to get equipment for all 925 people, we’d have to hire probably three dozen more probation officers and get more monitors and computer equipment.” Westmoreland County, Pa., has a waiting list of 177 people, down from more than 200 last year.