Bellingham Municipal Court’s new jail alternatives system uses electronic home detention bracelets administered by a local non-governmental company.
The Bellingham City Council has approved a new jail alternatives system designed to help reduce Whatcom County Jail overcrowding issues. Called “BRIC,” which stands for Bellingham Reduced Incarceration Challenge, the program became effective March 1, 2016. Eligible misdemeanants will be able to serve commitments through a private, non-profit agency, Friendship Diversion Services (FDS). FDS is located at 114 W. Magnolia, Suite 432 (Crown Plaza Building). Their phone number is (360) 392-3981. FDS provides similar services to jurisdictions across the State of Washington.
Under a contract with the City of Bellingham, FDS will provide jail alternatives such as Electronic Home Detention (EHD) and monitoring through such devices as Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM, once the defendant is screened and deemed eligible. GPS technology allows offender monitoring around the clock.
Participants on EHD must remain in their residence 24 hours per day, unless the Court permits them to leave for a specific purpose. Generally, approved activities will include school, work, treatment, counseling, probation/parole, medical/dental appointments, scheduled court hearings, attorney appointments and child care provisions once verified by FDS.
While there are fees associated with this jail alternative, the costs are planned to be significantly lower than traditional jail and jail alternatives. This alternative sentencing program is especially helpful for those with medical issues that prevent them from serving traditional jail or alternatives since they can serve their sentence at home and continue their prescribed medical treatment. Anyone serving through FDS must meet statutory eligibility criteria, a screening assessment and have a sentence of more than one day.
The present costs associated with FDS commitment is as follows:
-$50 hook-up fee (for ankle bracelet only no GPS)
-$14.50 per day (When GPS monitoring is required)
-$25.00 per day (GPS and SCRAM when required)
All defendants will be eligible to apply for financial assistance if FDS finds that they qualify as low income during the intake screening process.At sentencing, the Court enters a Home Detention Order (HDOR) authorizing the defendant to serve his/her sentence through FDS, if eligible.
Any request for credit for time served (CFTS) should be presented with verification at the time of sentencing. The defendant is then initially screened to determine eligibility. If deemed eligible, the defendant must comply by first contacting FDS by phone within 1 business day to set an intake appointment.
At sentencing, the defendant signs a promise to appear for a Jail Review scheduled approximately 2 weeks after sentencing. That review hearing is stricken once the Court receives confirmation from FDS that the defendant has complied. If requesting credit for time served (CFTS) towards any jail recommendation, the attorneys should come prepared at sentencing with documentation verifying any jail already served since the Court cannot obtain that information.
Any violations of the HDOR are reviewed by the Court to determine appropriate sanctions including removing the defendant from the FDS program and withholding jail alternatives for the balance of the sentence.
It is the intention of the Court to expand the programs under BRIC to include many different aspects encouraging rehabilitation and reintegration benefiting both the individual and the community. Programs being considered, among other things include re-licensing, theft awareness classes and even the possibility of work crews.
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