Under Dallas County’s alternative sentencing plan, certain low-level offenders discharge their sentences under ankle-monitored house arrest, giving them the opportunity to keep their jobs, eat home-cooked meals and enjoy the interaction of family and friends, says the Dallas Morning News. Alternative sentencing is helping the county’s bottom line. Since its inception Sept. 1, it has saved the county $366,016. Officials expect that figure to reach $400,000 by the initiative’s first anniversary in two weeks.
That’s double the $200,000 budgeted by county commissioners last year to launch the program, which they approved after observing a similar program in Brazos County. Designed to replace the old work-release program that allowed offenders to work during the day and then return to jail on nights and weekends, alternative sentencing is used for criminals with offenses ranging from misdemeanors such as hot-check writing, low-level theft and DWIs to state jail felonies that have been reduced to misdemeanors. “These folks were deemed a small enough threat during the day” under the old work-release system if closely monitored, so the alternative sentencing uses the same basic guidelines, said Ron Stretcher, director of criminal justice for Dallas County. “The vast majority of them complete the program,” Stretcher said. Of the 281 closed alternative sentencing cases, 273 offenders have successfully completed their time, giving the program a success rate of 97 percent.