EM and the Surveillance State

The Cases of Manafort and Gates: Electronic Monitoring and White Privilege

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with, among other things, laundering millions of dollars illegally,  continue to claim their white privilege entitlements in the criminal legal system. Since they turned themselves in, they have used their money and their high-priced lawyers to wage a determined fight to maintain the life of luxury, even though they are under the jurisdiction of the court with GPS electronic monitoring. Manafort and Gates are examples of how the courts use electronic monitoring differently for the affluent.

For folk of Manafort’s ilk, electronic monitors offer a prison to mansion pipeline-a means to keep them from having to rub shoulders with “criminals”inside a jailhouse-a place where the “refined” don’t belong. On the one hand, they have a point. They are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and therefore should be able to carry on with their life while they await final judgement.

And perhaps they could garner a little sympathy if the vast majority of people placed under house arrest and GPS monitoring, mostly poor people of color, didn’t face draconian conditions while they await adjudication.  So while Manafort has secured permission to move from Virginia to his “other” house in Florida, as well as being allowed to travel to New York and D.C., poor folks face movement restrictions which often prevent them from even taking out the garbage or checking the mail, let alone venturing out of state. Lavette Mayes, a 46 year old Black Chicago woman with no previous convictions, couldn’t secure movement when she was on a monitor to attend her childrens’ graduation or even walk them to the school bus.

Ultimately we still have parallel universes in the criminal legal system, even in the realm of E-Carceration. Seemingly,  the well-heeled were never meant to wear orange jumpsuits and stand in chow lines, never meant to have their family members patted or wanded down as they waited in line for five hours to get to a noisy visiting room to sit on stainless steel stools. For the affluent, we have a special version of house arrest with GPS tracking-confinement to a seven bedroom house with six flatscreen TVs and fridges overflowing with the latest food fads, blenders brewing kale-drenched smoothies and the beds set at 78.5 for the perfect sleep. It’s quiet as a church at midnight in their mansions. They may be innocent until proven guilty but there’s something a little ugly about the way the wear their innocence.

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.