3M is one of the biggest players in the EM industry. Through we may know them more for Scotch tape and Post-Its than ankle monitors, 3M has secured contracts with departments of corrections in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Oklahoma as well as with the government of New Zealand. But as of last month, their electronic monitoring unit was swallowed up by APAX Partners-a private equity firm (read acquisitions and takeover specialists). This is but the latest in large-scale re-shuffling of the industry which has seen prison phone profiteer Securus buy two major EM firms since 2014, big-time player Numerex take over monitor producer Omnilink, and Israeli-based Supercom absorbing LCA, a big player in California. Much of this activity is about speculation, betting on the fortunes of the prison-industrial-complex.
EM holds an ambiguous position at the present moment. If Sessions succeeds with his grand plans to reinstate the War on Drugs and grow the prison system, monitors may be pushed to the side. But even with the renewed emphasis on law and order, many states are still moving toward decarceration, with EM being one of the key vehicles. So in a way, investing in EM for companies like Securus and the GEO Group (which owns the biggest EM firm in the US, BI Incorporated) is a hedge-a way to ensure profit flows whether the prison system grows or if so-called alternatives like EM become the dominant form of incarceration in the future. APAX is betting on the alternatives. Here’s the latest news on 3M’s sale.