The EM Industry

Libre by Nexus: Prototype Prison Profiteer in the EM Industry

A somewhat thinly sourced story appeared in The Outline last week, noting that ICE is tracking a record number of immigrants. According to the piece by Lewis Wallace, ICE figures showed nearly 30,000 immigrants on monitors, about three times the number in 2014. A 2016 report by the American Friends Service Committee also showed increased use of monitors on immigrants, who typically refer to the devices as “grilletes” (Spanish for shackle).

While ICE is widening the net for direct supervision of immigrants via EM, more unscrupulous players like Libre by Nexus have also entered the market. Libre puts up the immigration bond for individuals who cannot afford the actual bail. In exchange Libre places the released individuals on a grillete (ankle shackle), charging them an enormous set of fees for “services.” A class action lawsuit lodged against Libre by Nexus on behalf of two Central American immigrants further alleges that the company has taken advantage of this largely Spanish-speaking clientele by writing up different versions of contracts in English and Spanish. The Spanish language version allegedly does not include certain financial obligations on the part of the person on the monitor.

But the operations of Libre by Nexus are more complex than sheer profiteering. They have branded themselves as a humanitarian company, even opening a free legal service for clients to help them face the deportation process. In addition, the company has gone so far as to file suits against local jails over poor conditions.  Last year they instigated a claim against a county in Virginia, charging that the jail was serving rocks in the food.  In their most recent court action on behalf of “inmates” Nexus claimed a rural Tennessee jail was running a “eugenics scheme” by offering women 30 days off their sentence if they would agree to be sterilized.

Libre by Nexus represents the cutting edge of a new genre of prison profiteers, those who brand themselves as “caring” while devising complex schemes to extort money from impoverished “clients.” The activities of Libre by Nexus exemplify a rapidly evolving practice of carceral humanism, blending state of the art marketing strategies with the punishment paradigm, all in the name of good business. Not surprisingly, the use of electronic monitoring is central to Libre by Nexus’s operations.  While in the future electronic shackles may shrink in size and become less visible, the growing capacity of GPS tracking and the expanding stalking lust of the surveillance state provide assurance that  the threat of E-Carceration needs to remain on our radar.


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.