Electronic monitors violate basic civil rights and come with unfair financial penalties. Over 35,000 immigrants wear an ankle monitor unit with GPS. Experts estimate that electronic monitor usage has doubled between 2005 and 2015. As pressure to reduce incarceration increases, technology gains in popularity. Electronic monitoring is supposedly more humane, allowing people to live at home, moving more freely. There is no proof that monitors ensure safer communities but remain an additional punishment, extending the sentence. When a monitor is part of the parole, it curtails freedom of persons given a device before conviction. Some points about ankle shackles:
Paid for Privilege
People on the monitor are on 24×7 surveillance, paying daily fees from $5 to $25 with monitor fees exceeding monthly rents. Serious consequences follow delayed payments in Kentucky, and a three-day delay can jail you.
Can’t Touch It
Skin irritations from wearing devices are reported but many states term it a crime to “tamper” with or remove them and in Georgia, additional five years prison is given.
Shackled for Life
Many states have mandatory lifetime GPS for people guilty of certain sex crimes. In Michigan, those on lifetime GPS pay fees even if unable to pay. The Eighth Amendment confirms that excessive bail is not required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. A daily fee for a person’s remaining life, surely falls into the “excessive” category?
Don’t Get Sick
Some medical procedures like mammograms, X-Rays, MRIs, and CT scans cannot be done if a person wears a monitor and there is no clear policy for device removal during an emergency. California’s rules require the person to carry the activated device into the operating room.
Many states require a landline telephone for their monitors, adding costs many households have deleted from their budget. In Iowa, losing or damaging the device tracking component, forces replacement payment of $795 while a missing power cord costs $55.
Always Powered On
To avoid rules violation, a person’s monitor must retain contact with authorities. Most devices have batteries requiring daily charges. While batteries should hold a charge for the entire day, they can fail, forcing individuals to return home or plug devices into a wall outlet in public. What about power outages? Troy Hawkins, wearing a monitor in Wisconsin, returned to jail for five days when a power outage ended connection with the device.
70% of electronic monitoring devices have GPS capacity, rising from 2.5 % in 2005. Who keeps the tracking data which belongs to the corrections department or local sheriff’s department? But several law enforcement branches have access. GPS tracking data in Germany is deleted after two months, but in USA, Attenti and Satellite Tracking of People, have contracts for seven year data-retention, long after the monitor comes off. Electronic monitors are basically punitive devices, and not an incarceration alternative. Johnny Page, a youth counsellor in Chicago wore one after 23 years in Illinois prisons, mentions that the EM experience is another form of jail. Instead of technological punishment, law enforcement agencies could support those on parole, involved in the juvenile justice system, awaiting trial, or the repressive ICE machinations. Genuine alternatives, not digital prisons are needed.