The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved a new home detention program for Santa Barbara County Jail inmates last Tuesday to expand the existing electronic monitoring program.

The AB 109 bill, proposed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, shifts the EMP from a solely voluntary program to a mandatory move for certain inmates in an effort to alleviate overcrowding. The District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department and Public Defender’s Office collaborated on the final program.

SBC Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Don Patterson said AB 109 will help reduce the number of pre-sentenced and convicted inmates congesting the jail.

“This ordinance will increase the tools in our toolbox to manage our jail population,” Patterson said. “With this and evidence-based instruments, we can be confident about prioritizing public safety when we decide who should stay in jail and who can serve in other ways.”

Patterson said the electric monitoring system is an advantageous alternative to jail for low- and medium-risk inmates who have been in custody for more than 30 days on misdemeanor charges. Inmates must also qualify for the program through the Alternative Sentencing Bureau’s scoring system, which weighs the severity of the inmates’ crimes and their likelihood to reoffend.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the board aims to develop an accurate method of analyzing inmates’ psychiatric health and incarceration options.

“We do not seem to have such a tool, and we will be looking into it in the future,” Farr said. “Jail overcrowding, homelessness and mental health — these are all important issues and interconnected in many ways. It is the board’s responsibility to find a solution for these problems and implement them in the most cost-effective way.”