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Electronic House Arrest Could Be Casualty Of State Budget Cuts

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RALEIGH, N.C. — There are currently 36,000 inmates in North Carolina's prisons; however, not all offenders end up behind bars. Some are offered alternatives to prison, including probation, drug treatment and electronic house arrest.

State budget cuts could eliminate those types of programs that keep an eye on criminals.

Matt Jones, 20, is currently under electronic house arrest for selling crack cocaine.

"The offender is required to wear this 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Kevin Wallace, executive officer of the state's Division of Community Corrections.

Every time Jones leaves his house, the state knows about it. He wears a special transmitting device that tracks his movement.

Offenders like Jones could end up under much less supervision, because state budget cuts could wipe out electronic house arrest.

Sex offenders, domestic violence offenders and substance abuse dealers all fall into this category, according to Wallace.

With overcrowded prisons across the state, some criminals could be let go without the safety net of electronic house arrest.

"If we lose some of the sanctions or tools to provide controls or treatment, then that could compromise public safety," said Robert Lee Guy, director of the Division of Community Corrections.

Corrections officials said that locking up all offenders is not an option because the prison system is overcrowded. They worry that the state's budget crisis could make it easier for those convicted to strike again.

Currently, there are just under 1,000 offenders under electronic house arrest in the state; 36 of them are in Wake County.