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Durham County Sheriff's Office To End House Arrest Program

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DURHAM — TheDurham County Sheriff's Officeis ending its troubled electronic house arrest program, but that does not mean a return to jail for suspects. A man accused of murder will only be shackled by a curfew.

Sheriff deputies intended to use the electronic bracelets to keep track of non-violent offenders. However, judges often order house arrest for suspects accused of violent crimes.

"These folks haven't been convicted of a crime, but we're getting serious crimes placed on electronic house arrest like murder, armed robbery, things like that," says Bruce Black of the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

In the seven years since the house arrest program began, suspects have damaged or destroyed 20 of the county's 28 bracelets and monitors. Deputies decided it is too expensive to replace the $1,500 devices, so they are ending the program in October.

Murder suspect Alvin Sales is one of four men who will be cut loose from house arrest. Police say Sales killed his girlfriend during a struggle in February. He tried to escape from authorities by jumping off of the second-floor balcony at the sheriff's office.

Since then, he has worn a monitoring device when he goes to work at an auto salvage shop. That bracelet will be removed in October.

Fran Vaughan owns the house where Sales and his girlfriend lived. She says she is worried about the criminals on the streets.

"It's a shame people have to be fearful of criminals because they're allowed to walk the streets," she says.

A judge says Sales will have to keep his 8 p.m. curfew. However, Vaughan says the court should require more than the word of an accused murderer.

"I think it's lousy. I don't think any criminal should be allowed to get out in public," she says. "The judicial system is to take care of the people, and they're not doing it if they're letting people out."

The Sheriff's Office started the house arrest program to ease overcrowding in the jail. However, that is not a problem anymore. Even without double-bunking the inmates, the jail has at least 100 beds open right now.


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