Editorials

Let’s find the money to continue juvenile monitoring program

Harrison County Youth Court Judge Margaret Alphonso talks to Mississippi Department of Human Services caseworkers before their session on May17, 2016 in Gulfport.
Harrison County Youth Court Judge Margaret Alphonso talks to Mississippi Department of Human Services caseworkers before their session on May17, 2016 in Gulfport. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Keep on fighting.

That’s our message to Harrison County Youth Court Judge Margaret Alfonso, who is rightfully upset the state has cut funding for ankle bracelets that track the movement of juvenile delinquents.

The ankle-bracelet monitoring system allows certain young people to go to school, and work if they have part-time jobs. The system tracks delinquents’ locations and if they go out of bounds, a person who monitors the system warns them to go home. It also alerts the Youth Court.

At any given time, Alfonso said, the whereabouts of 12 juvenile defendants under house arrest in Harrison County are tracked. The 12 have been deemed a safety concern to the community and have been allocated to the Youth Court to keep an eye on. It’s a step to try to prevent sending a youth to detention.

“Ankle bracelets give delinquents a taste of confinement and show them there are consequences for their actions,” the judge said.

We certainly see the need for such devices and endorse the program’s continuation.

The problem, of course, is money. An ankle monitor costs $10 per day, but as Alfonso says, “I can assure you the cost of an ankle bracelet is substantially less per day than it would be to detain delinquents.”

Perhaps the cities or county supervisors can come forward with some stopgap money. Perhaps a private benefactor reading this editorial will be moved to make a donation.

But Harrison County needs to find a way to get this done. It’s a public-safety issue.

Alfonso said she had never imagined the program would be cut.

“It’s disastrous,” she said, “and another blow to Youth Court efforts to get the attention of juveniles and protect the public.”

We agree.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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