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This letter is in response to a brief article that appeared in your paper (“Watch Out,” City Desk, 2/12). The objective is to present a more complete and balanced view of what transpired during conversations following my prepared remarks before the D.C. Council Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 4, which were very ably chaired by the Honorable Harold Brazil.
The basic thrust of my presentation was to give the council a greater appreciation of the fact that many offenders now incarcerated could be supervised more cost-effectively and just as safely using electronic monitoring. Chairman Brazil’s investigation of this matter is on the right track and should lead to determining the best plan of action for dealing with the very difficult halfway-house problem. His approach should also produce a significant cost savings for the taxpayer. However, after my remarks at the hearing, it was apparent that not all those present understood the proper application of the “Watch Patrol” system within the overall framework of a solution to the problem. I therefore offered an additional comment to the effect that this system would help to solve the overall problem by diverting offenders away from the overcrowded halfway houses and prisons, by directing them into a home-detention program, in which offenders could be monitored by Watch Patrol. The current system was not intended for use within the halfway-house environment.
While leaving the hearings, a Washington City Paper reporter asked me in the hallway just why the device presented would not work inside the halfway house. My response was that there would probably be too many electronic signals going off simultaneously, and that the instrument wasn’t intended for that purpose, but for the home-detention program.
My call to that same reporter the following day for the purpose of discussing her article, and possibly clarifying anything for her, was rebuffed with the statement, “That’s not our policy.” Why should any news organization have a policy against clarifying mistaken impressions that a young reporter may well have?
Nevertheless, the article appeared the following week, and for whatever reason, the reporter presented events out of sequence and chose to interpret matters in an extremely negative manner. The picture that the article presented was a misrepresentation as to the capabilities and intended use of Watch Patrol as a state-of-the-art electronic monitoring device for use in a home-detention environment. Also, the article was an insult to the integrity and forthrightness of all those at the hearing, who were doing their best to come up with solutions for what is a very difficult situation with the halfway houses in D.C.
Councilmember Brazil is to be commended for his efforts in conducting hearings that solicit inputs from a wide variety of sources in a sincere effort to develop the best solutions for the District of Columbia. Also, it’s high time for not only those reporting the news, but also their readers, to take a more positive attitude in supporting the current actions of the Judiciary Committee to formulate a comprehensive program that will serve the best interests of the citizens of Washington, D.C.
Electronic Monitoring Systems