PRINCE GEORGE'S residents ought to be all over the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, which regulates home-detention companies. The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services shouldn't be let off the hook, either. According to state records, Home Tracking Inc. of Upper Marlboro, a private company that supervises people sentenced to home detention, lost track of criminal defendants in its charge on 625 occasions in July and August. The number represents 98 percent of all house-arrest violations reported by Maryland private home-detention firms, The Post's Craig Whitlock reported Friday. Worse, the violations represent a serious public safety threat to Marylanders and area residents.
The concern is not theoretical. In June a man who was supposed to be serving one year in home detention under Home Tracking's supervision was arrested and charged with the murder of a Capitol Heights woman. He was not where he was supposed to be, and an innocent woman hanging curtains in her home is dead because of it. What happened on the hundreds of other occasions when Home Tracking lost track of people under its supervision?
Thanks to a new Maryland law that took effect in July, private companies are no longer allowed to keep tabs on defendants by telephone. Instead of relying upon random phone checks to make sure that individuals are complying with terms of their release, home-detention companies are now required to use electronic devices equipped with radio transmitters. But even with ankle bracelets and the like as a must, Home Tracking defendants still piled up loads of violations of confinement.
Maryland agencies owe the public some answers. Home Tracking was warned that it was out of compliance with the state's new rules, yet the company was granted a new license that let it keep operating. State officials say they granted the license after auditing the firm's books. Prince George's Del. James Hubbard doubts that all the company's problems have been fixed and questions the wisdom of granting a license. The state should produce proof of the audit and evidence that it is as vigilant in monitoring private home-detention firms as those firms are supposed to be in monitoring defendants.