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Wake County Uses House Arrest To Ensure Child Support Payments

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RALEIGH — If you do not pay child support and you get caught, you go to jail. But if you are in jail, you cannot work, which means you cannot pay child support. Judges in Wake County are using a new method to deal with this problem -- house arrest. And it is working.

Earlier this summer things were not looking so good for Shawn Battle. He was taken into custody for not paying his child support.

"My total amount owed is $9,000," he said.

But Battle is not sitting in a jail cell anymore. He is in the comfort of his own home in Raleigh, under house arrest.

"If you can't do it with this, you can't do it," said Battle.

Battle wears a monitor around his ankle which sends a signal through the phone line. He can only leave for work and medical reasons. If he violates the rules, he faces jail time.

"Once I come in at 5 o'clock, that's it until the next day," said Battle.

Rich Morrison works for Wake Electronic Monitoring, the group handling the house arrest program in Wake County. He says house arrest is a great option in child support cases, because people in the program can work to pay off their debt rather than biding time in a jail cell.

"It gives a person focus. A person actually wants to get off this. A person in both cases, civil or criminal, is allowed to go out get a job or look for work and support their family," said Morrison.

"It's working, it's good, it beats being 'upstairs'. At least here you can do what you got to do. Up there, you can't do anything, you just sit there and do your time," said Battle.

And the program has given Battle a new perspective He is working at a local college cafeteria and applying to culinary school.

"I'm trying to change for the better because I want my kids back in my house. I really do. The only way I'm going to be able to do that is do what I got to do. That's it," said Battle.

Battle says the anklet is just an inconvenience. His kids are the real incentive to do better.

"It's a good program for people that have something to look forward to," said Battle.

Judges in Wake County child support court started using house arrest as a tool 18 months ago. Today, about two-thirds of the people under house arrest in the county are there because they failed to pay their child support.


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