Ankle Monitors Make the Grade in Texas

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

It began in Midland as a successful way of keeping kids in school, and now its spreading across the state. 

A program in Midland uses ankle montiors to track truant kids, and that has court authorities all over Texas sitting up and taking notice. 

The latest city to sign up is San Antonio.

On Monday morning, the Midland County Commissioners Court re-approved the grant of about $200,000 for the tenth year in a row. 

With a 95 percent success rate, their phone has been ringing from counties from all over Texas, wanting to know how they can start a similar program.

"If we're getting our kids in school, then everybody benefits," James R. Henry, Program Director of the Alternative Sentencing Program in Midland, said.

Juvenile offenders from 10-17 years of age qualify for the monitors, but so far, Midland has only used these monitors on Jr. High and High School students.

"We had kids who were not going to school, in the front door, out the back door type situations; wouldn't come home in the evenings, or even gone overnight or even two or three days," Henry said.

Depending on their sentencing, students wear the tracking device between 30-180 days.

"The student keeps the monitor on for as long as we feel like they need it. If they can show a pattern that they've gotten themselves back in order and attending as required, then we'll take the monitor off," Henry said.

They're water proof, light-weight, and virtually indestructable.

"It's an extreme step to take, but for the outcome, I think it overwhelms the actual, in tandum, what it may look like," Henry said.

The ankle monitors track where you are and where you've been, but the most surprising thing about this technology isn't the affect is has on the one who wears it, it's the affect that it has on other students.

"One monitor afffects 15-20 other students because the students see the monitor on, and they're like, 'Oh, I don't want that. What do I have to do to stay out of Judge Cobo's court?'" Henry said.

But then officials got an unexpected result.

"The parent/child relationship was an unseen success for the program, because when we put the child on the monitor, it also requires the parents to have a certain level of accountability," Henry said.

Parents have some added responsibility too. They're required to notify staff members if the child goes out of the allowed zone.

"We saw families, parents, and kids coming closer together after they've been wearing the monitor," Henry said. "And parents have been extremely receptive to the idea. They like it, they see it as something they need in order to get their kids back on track like they should."

NewsWest 9 also spoke with Judge Cobos on Monday and he tells us they can track the student's whereabouts every thirty seconds just by checking their cell phones or computers. 

Now that Midland has helped San Antonio get their program underway, officials are hoping it will continue spreading around Texas and even across the U.S.