The EM Industry

Carceral Conglomerate Grows in Tennessee

Tennessee Recovery and Monitoring (TRM) is  a perfect example of a home-grown carceral conglomerate-a company that reaches its investment tentacles into several sectors of the prison-industrial-complex to garner profits from mass incarceration.

The roots of this company lie in the bail bond industry. The co-founder of TRM, Andy Baggenstoss inherited Cumberland Bail Bonds from his father in 2004.  The junior Baggenstoss began working in the bail bond industry back in his college days.

About five years ago, Baggenstoss began to feel the winds of change blowing over the bail bond marketplace. He started to sing the song of reform. He told a reporter from the Times Free Press, “Many non-violent offenders, I don’t think they need to go to jail. They need a monitor, they need a sanction; they need a drug screen; they need a home visit and interaction, and perhaps some treatment.”

Since that time, Tennessee Recovery and Marketing has swallowed up the growing EM market in the state’s counties, having set up operations in 72 out of 95 counties. TRM does alcohol monitors and ignition interlock as well as GPS. Scott Cranmore, company vice-president, says “we think we’re part of a paradigm shift from incarcerating everybody,” he told the Times Free Press, “some people need another opportunity and these monitors provide another opportunity and the recovery that people need.”

But their agenda goes beyond simply spreading electronic monitoring and growing their client base. They view themselves as part of a bigger agenda to privatize the criminal legal system. While radical critics of mass incarceration continue to push for allocating state resources to preventative programs, job creation and housing, TRM has a different view. In Baggenstoss’s opinion, “Incarceration doesn’t work for everybody and we need something different and my belief is that should come from the private sector especially when it deals with recovery and treatment.”

For the moment, TRM seems to be mainly focused on tracking and monitoring technology, but clearly Baggenstoss and Cranmore have a much bigger vision of how private sector profiteering can jump on the bandwagon of reform to open up new profit centers and redefine mass incarceration.  That’s what carceral humanism is all about-making depriving people of their liberty sound attractive, something in the best interests of the public and even those who are incarcerated.

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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.