Why Electronic Monitoring?

Electronic Monitoring Is NOT An Alternative to Incarceration

In many states and counties, authorities are looking for ways to save money on corrections. Electronic monitors are an easy option. Today at least 125,000 people in the U.S. are on electronic monitors. But monitors are not an alternative to incarceration. They are an ALTERNATIVE FORM OF INCARCERATION, part of E-Carceration. We must ensure that E-Carceration, especially with the use of tracking devices and ankle shackles, does not become a new form of mass incarceration. Therefore, rather than accept monitors because they might seem “better than jail,” we must:

  1. Curtail the expanded use of monitors, especially on groups who have not been convicted or even charged with a criminal offense.
  2. Eliminate all fees for wearing a monitor. In some jurisdictions people pay up to $15-20 to be on a monitor. This is unacceptable.
  3. Expose the profiteering of companies that are trying to grow the use of monitors. The GEO Group, the largest private prison company, also owns the largest electronic monitoring company, BI Incorporated. They have a horrendous record of abuse in their prisons. Why should we expect them to act differently toward people on monitors?
  4. Ensure that if monitors are used, they are accompanied by a set of guidelines and policies that protect the rights of the people on the monitor and provide them with opportunities to work, access treatment, take part in religious activities, and promote full participation in the community.
  5.  Implement rules and regulations about the storage and access of the location tracking data gathered through GPS-enabled monitors. At present, companies keep the data for as long as they want, access is not strictly limited, and the data may even be bought and sold on the market. Electronic monitoring should not be part of a surveillance state.
  6. Make sure that electronic monitoring is not used as special punishment for people of color amounting to technological expansion of racialized mass incarceration.
  7. Give people credit for time served when placed on a monitor with house arrest.

About the author

James Kilgore

James Kilgore is an activist , writer and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. He is a Soros Justice Fellow for 2017-18. His project, Challenging E-Carceration, focuses on electronic monitoring in the criminal legal system.

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