Friday, April 10, 2009

Home Incarceration

I realize that I've blended posts about electronic monitoring of violent criminals and not all of them are related to Domestic Violence. My message is simple: Home Incarceration for dangerous criminals doesn't always work. We need lawmakers to re-examine this practice. Too many innocent people are killed by criminals being electronically monitored. One life lost is too many. If we don't speak out, who will? I have more stories to post about this topic and I will when I have more time.

Please say a prayer for those who lost their lives when they should have been protected. God bless them all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Teenage suspect in New Orleans bartender's French Quarter death broke monitoring rules

Teenage suspect in New Orleans bartender's French Quarter death broke monitoring rules
by Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday April 07, 2009, 6:39 PM

Less than a week before Drey Lewis and two friends allegedly held up and fatally shot a French Quarter bartender, a company monitoring the 15-year-old's movements through an ankle bracelet reported to juvenile court that Lewis wasn't following the rules of his probation, documents show.
Though the company, Total Sentencing Alternatives Program, recommended that Lewis be ejected from the monitoring program as a result -- a move that likely would have landed him in a juvenile detention center -- that didn't occur, allowing him to roam the streets on the night of Jan. 17, when Wendy Byrne was killed.
Juvenile Judge David Bell, who handled Lewis' case, said bad timing made it impossible for him to act immediately on the company's recommendation.
TSAP did not file its letter until the day of a previously scheduled review hearing for Lewis, which meant the court could not grant the company's request to remove him from electronic monitoring, according to Bell.
The judge said any request to change a juvenile delinquent's status must be filed 72 hours before a hearing to allow attorneys on both sides to prepare arguments.
"If provided notice, the court could have handled the matter, " Bell said. "Does that mean I would have revoked him that day? I don't know."
Lewis, who has been in the Orleans Parish jail since he was booked in Byrne's killing, was on probation in juvenile court after a property crime conviction, Bell said.
Reggie Douglas, who turned 16 while in jail, is accused of shooting Byrne. Lewis and 14-year-old Ernest Cloud allegedly accompanied Douglas to the French Quarter to pull off armed robberies, police said. Under state law, each of the teens potentially faces murder charges, regardless of their roles in the crime.
None of them have been formally charged. Cloud's case remains in juvenile court until he is declared competent to assist with his defense. The Orleans Parish district attorney's office has about two more weeks to obtain a grand jury indictment of Lewis and Douglas on murder charges, or refuse the case.
The electronic monitoring program has been the subject of some criticism in the past year, with the debate reignited by recent cases involving suspects in violent crimes who were wearing ankle bracelets. But proponents have called electronic monitoring an effective tool for allowing some defendants to get out of jail to attend school or work, while still providing a measure of oversight before trial or on probation.
The city plans to rebid the contract to provide monitoring for the various courts but has not yet done so.
Lewis was placed on probation in early December after his adjudication for the nonviolent property crime, details of which Bell would not disclose. As part of his probation, the juvenile was given an ankle bracelet and a curfew restricting his night movements. According to a TSAP letter and Bell's court judgment obtained by The Times-Picayune, Lewis didn't comply with the terms of his probation and was in trouble at school.
The judgment noted that Lewis had been suspended for being disrespectful at school, that he skipped school and "had been shot by a friend that was playing with a gun." Bell said he didn't have any other details about the gun accident.
A letter dated Jan. 12 and filed into the court record Jan. 13 by TSAP noted that Lewis had failed to consistently charge the battery on his ankle bracelet, which was capable of tracking his location through global positioning satellite software. That meant the company couldn't always say where Lewis had been or whether he was complying with his curfew, according to the letter.
The letter was received by the court on the day of the scheduled hearing, Bell said. Instead of immediately revoking Lewis' probation, he set the case for another hearing on Feb. 3 and placed the teenager on house arrest. Lewis was not supposed to leave his house except to attend school or move about with his mother.
The revocation hearing was set for three weeks after the status hearing that revealed Lewis' problems because that was when all the lawyers could be present, Bell said. The state Office of Juvenile Justice, which had supervised Lewis' probation for less than six weeks, also asked for more time to work with him, he said.
Many juveniles placed on probation quickly violate restrictions, ignoring mandates that they attend school and participate in court-ordered programs, Bell said. Judges must balance the potential public safety threat of a youth with the goal of pushing the young person onto the right track, he said.
Bell reiterated his earlier complaint that TSAP hasn't provided the court with timely notice when youths, including Lewis, are not complying with court-ordered restrictions on their movements.
Too often the judge doesn't find out about a violation until another month passes, Bell said. That point was reiterated by Ilona Picou, head of Juvenile Regional Services, the public defenders at juvenile court, who added that electronic monitoring needs to be coupled with more intensive case management.
After the Saturday night Lewis was in the French Quarter, during the time of the Wendy Byrne killing, the court never received notification of the violation, Bell said.
William Welch, chief executive officer of TSAP, said he can't dispute Bell's explanation of court rules and the necessity of filing revocations 72 hours before hearings.
But Welch said his company regularly files notices of electronic monitoring violations at court, including in Lewis' case. If the company thinks violations are severe enough that a judge needs to act right away, a case manager will file the request the next day, he said.
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Laura Maggi can be reached at or 504.826.3316.