The EM Industry

New GPS Device Tightens the Electronic Noose on the “Criminalized”

This week Telmate, a subsidiary of phone profiteer GtL (Global Tel*Link), announced a new GPS tracking device through a partnership with reentry provider, Dismas, Charities, Etc. The aim of this device, branded as “the Guardian,” is to “give them a hand, not an ankle bracelet.” Dismas apparently intends to use the Guardian on individuals residing in their reentry houses.

In terms of criminal justice system monitoring, the Telmate device is an innovation-the elimination of the dreaded ankle shackle and its replacement by a simple smartphone.  Yet once again, we find providers like Dismas and Telmate practicing carceral humanism, branding punitive technologies and policies as beneficial to the person on the receiving end. In this case, these companies are trying to convince those prone to empathy with the criminalized population that putting someone on a cellphone based tracker is really giving them “a hand.” Dismas Vice-Presidents Joe Driver and Dan Judiscak released a statement saying the elimination of the shackle is a step toward “reducing the possible labeling and stereotyping of our residents.”

Compatible with either I-Phone or Android, the Guardian not only tracks location but has capacity for facial recognition via video and voice recognition. The supervising officer can connect with a person under their watch and verify their location via tracking as well as video and audio confirmation. While the advent of this particular device is hardly a quantum leap in GPS monitoring, it definitely constitutes a harbinger of things to come. With the range of apps currently available for cellphones, the capacity of parole agents and other authorities to monitor a range of biometrics from blood chemistry to posture adds new possibilities to the notions of supervision and predictive policing. With the continued promotion of algorithms as the ultimate conveyors of truth, “weapons of math destruction” as author Cathy O’Neil calls them, the boundaries and definitions of E-Carceration increasingly demand a counter-narrative, a set of enforceable controls,  and a clear cut definition of the “rights of the monitored.”

To read about the Dismas device, click here.

To read Telmate’s more detailed description of the device, click here.

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.