Detention program puts spotlight on parolee


Gary A. Brooks, parolee and convicted drug offender, COME ON DOWN!

You are the 10,000th person to wear an electronically monitored ankle bracelet as part of Maryland's home detention program! You get to meet Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend!

Calling it "the craziest thing that's ever happened in my life," a smiling Brooks came to the home detention unit's headquarters yesterday and accepted the strange honor bestowed upon him by state officials, who used the occasion to publicize the program.

"I thought they were going to give me $10,000 or something," Brooks joked. "They asked me if I'd come here and talk to you guys [reporters] and I said sure. I don't see no harm in it, it seems like a good idea."

Mrs. Townsend went on a tour around Baltimore with program officials yesterday and met some of the home-bound offenders, who must wear electronically monitored anklets and are prohibited from leaving their residences without prior permission.

But special distinction was given to Brooks, whose foot not only stepped into one of the bracelets but the limelight as well.

He's 25, lives in Baltimore County, and has past convictions for cocaine possession, carrying a handgun, violation of probation, and breaking and entering. After serving two years in prison, he was paroled, got a job in the catering business, and started trying to straighten out his life.

Brooks, who started wearing the ankle bracelet last month, is one of about 340 people in the program, which began in January 1991 as an effort to ease overcrowding in prisons.

Yesterday, Brooks didn't win that $10,000 he dreamed of. But he did get an audience with Mrs. Townsend. He told her about his life, his relatives, his job and his hopes to stay out of jail.

"No way I'm going to mess this up. I've worked hard to get to this point, I don't want to go back to prison," Brooks said.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the state Department of DTC Public Safety and Correctional Services, said that the "10,000th person" publicity gimmick was done to focus attention on the home detention program, which state officials tout as one of the most successful in the nation.

Mrs. Townsend said the home detention program, as well as other alternative sentencing options such as drug court and boot camp, are the keys to the criminal justice system's future. She said Maryland's home detention program, which now operates mainly in the Baltimore metropolitan area, may be expanded.

State officials estimate it costs $34 a day to keep an offender in prison and $20 a day to keep one on home detention with the ankle bracelet.

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