A Prince George's County home-detention company that came under scrutiny in June when one of the people it was supervising was charged with murder is responsible for 98 percent of all house-arrest violations reported by private home-detention firms in Maryland, according to state records.
The company, Home Tracking Inc. of Upper Marlboro, has reported to the state that it lost track of criminal defendants under its supervision on 625 occasions in July and August, the documents show.
In comparison, the five other private home-detention companies that operate in Maryland had a combined total of only 10 instances in which their clients were reported missing during those two months.
Only 21 percent of the 405 people enrolled with home-detention firms in Maryland as of Aug. 31 were under the supervision of Home Tracking, according to records filed monthly with the state and obtained by The Washington Post.
Despite Home Tracking's problems and a warning by regulators last month that it was out of compliance with new state rules, state officials yesterday granted the company a new license that allows it to remain in business. Officials said yesterday that they agreed to grant the license after conducting an audit of the firm's books last week.
Donald R. Jones, executive director of the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, which regulates home-detention companies, declined to answer questions yesterday.
Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, suggested that Home Tracking may have recorded so many violations because it recently changed the way it monitors clients.
In the past, the firm used random telephone checks to make sure defendants were complying with conditions under which they were released. Under new state rules that went into effect July 1, however, the company is required to use electronic devices such as ankle bracelets equipped with radio transmitters.
"Part of their problem was compliance with electronic monitoring," said Sipes. He said regulators will review Home Tracking's operations again in two weeks. "We remain concerned. The public safety emphasis needs to be first and foremost."
Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George's) said yesterday he found it hard to believe that Home Tracking had fixed all its problems and questioned whether it deserved a license.
"These records cast some doubt on my part that all this could have been rectified in the past 30 days," he said. "I hope to hell the state can show proof of their audit of the company."
Private home-detention companies were unregulated in Maryland until July 1, when a new state law required them to be licensed, bonded and regulated.
The companies are also required to submit monthly reports that list the people they supervise and how many times each violated conditions of confinement. People sentenced to home detention are confined to their homes during certain hours but are allowed to go to work or other places, such as church.
In June, Prince George's police arrested a Suitland man who was supposed to be under the supervision of Home Tracking and charged him with murder in the death of a Capitol Heights woman who was shot while hanging curtains in her home. The man had been sentenced by a Prince George's judge to serve one year in home detention after he was convicted in January of cocaine possession.
Home Tracking is owned by Jerry Romer and Pat Godhard, two former Maryland probation officers, and operates out of a second-floor office in downtown Upper Marlboro. Neither returned phone calls yesterday.
Home Tracking's landlord is Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's), an influential state lawmaker who has intervened on behalf of the company in the past.
Last winter, when a new county ordinance threatened to force Home Tracking out of business, Vallario instructed the Maryland attorney general's office to review the matter. In response, the state's attorneys issued a legal opinion that essentially invalidated the county's new law.
Vallario said yesterday that Home Tracking's owners had not come to him asking for help in their effort to obtain a license.
"I didn't have any idea that they had anybody in violation," he said. "I assume the licensing people will take whatever steps necessary."