This week, a 13-year-old Seattle girl charged with killing a baby was allowed to leave juvenile jail and go home with her parents, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Prosecutors wanted the girl locked in a cell until her trial, but child advocates insisted that with no prior record, she was a candidate for electronic home monitoring. The program that has given thousands of young offenders a chance for increased freedom and saved King County taxpayers $1 million a year.
Since 1998, home monitoring, in which juveniles are released to their parents or guardians and fitted with ankle bracelets that send off alarms if they stray, has allowed officials to close 50 juvenile jail cells, cut teen detention numbers by nearly half, and sidestep building a costly new detention hall. The program is not a cure-all. Of the 1,053 youths in it last year, 18 percent were booked again before the year was out. Thirty-eight other teens escaped their homes, and 105 were sent back to lockup for continued behavior problems. Critics say youths on electronic monitoring routinely log a few weeks at mandatory reporting programs, only to steal another car or brandish another weapon and return a few months later.