As supervisor of the Montgomery County Community Accountability and Treatment Services Program, I commend Tracy Thompson for her piece on the problems inherent in electronic monitoring of prisoners in their homes {Metro, Dec. 10}.

However, from the outset, Montgomery County leaders have recognized that putting convicted offenders back into their homes without a treatment plan and on-site monitoring would be foolish with or without electronic monitoring. Our electronic monitoring equipment is a "tool," not a "program," and we've found it a useful one if employed appropriately.

Our CATS Program gives careful consideration to screening and appropriate placement, to on-site monitoring and supervision and to counseling and treatment beyond the electronic equipment. Most offenders in any jurisdictions have significant drug and alcohol problems, and we devote attention to these addictions so that offenders may return to the community with the skills and resources to handle their lives more responsibly.

CATS caseworkers make surprise visits to offenders' homes. No alcohol or drugs are permitted in participants' houses, and drug tests are conducted three times a week. Any substance abuse results in an immediate return to security confinement. Because of the high level of monitoring, substance abuse in the CATS Program is minimal.

The CATS Program treats offenders and their families. Caseworkers provide weekly counseling with offenders and their "community sponsor," usually a family member, in the home.

Offenders participate in a support group focusing on "relapse prevention" as well as attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous three times a week. Family members are educated about addiction, relapse prevention and co-dependency. The CATS Program emphasizes involvement in the community, commitment to lifestyle change and responsible behavior.

Neal Potter, our new county executive, was a leading proponent of this program during his service on the county council. He recognized the cost-effectiveness of programs such as CATS. Our experience in Montgomery County is that electronic monitoring can work if coupled with treatment and supervision strategies. -- Susan Wiant