Judicial system officials are trying to set up a new GPS monitoring system to keep tabs on people awaiting trial.
The system would allow judges, on a case-by-case basis, to release inmates from the overcrowded jail. For a monthly fee paid by the defendant, the person would wear a bracelet to monitor their whereabouts while they await trial.
"If that person stops paying, they are picked up and put back in jail. It is a great savings to the taxpayer," said Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone. "There are just some procedures that need to be ironed out."
Different from the electronic monitoring ankle bracelets, known as ELMO, currently issued, the GPS bracelets tell where a person is at all times.
If they were to break the bracelet and try to run, law enforcement officials would be given immediate notice electronically.
"I'm dealing with people with the more serious crimes and I want to be darn sure where they are at any moment," Tone said. "We have to have a strict policy set up of who monitors these people who are on the bracelets."
If there is a robbery, for example, the GPS would report which people wearing the bracelets were near the crime location, said Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette.
"It's going to give us more accurate indication of where the person is at," he said. "It's accountability and safety for the community."
If the wearer leaves a designated zone established by the judge, an alarm is set off.
Officials have already looked at three GPS products and will be reviewing two others in the near future, said Capt. Todd Dempsey, Erie County jail administrator.
"We are looking at which best suits the need for Erie County," he said. "There are many counties throughout Ohio that are using electronic GPS."
Officials hope the system would help with overcrowding issues.
"To have an adequate system set up ... would free up a lot of folks at the jail, a lot of space and money," Tone said. "It does save a lot of money not having to house those people."
Whether or not this will be permanent fix to the jail overcrowding problem has yet to be determined.
"It depends on how it's utilized," Dempsey said. "It could be a fix for the summer or a fix for the next four or five years."
Initial estimates point to the system costing defendants about $15 per month.
"It's been developed at a rate now that's affordable for individuals being locked up," Tone said. "We need to do it as soon as possible because we're overcrowded."
Officials are meeting again in a few weeks to hash out the details.
"I think it is a wave of the future," Binette said. "The sooner the better it gets in place."