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Electronic Monitoring-FAQs

How widely used is electronic monitoring ?

According to a Pew Charitable Trust research report in 2016, there were about 131,000 individuals under supervision via electronic monitoring on December 2015, more than double the amount a decade earlier. However, this likely underestimates the total since it did not include those under supervision due to immigration case. Moreover, since people typically spend far less than a year on an electronic monitor, the number of people on EM during a year may be as high as 200,000.

Who is on a monitor?

Electronic monitors are used in many different situations. The most common usages are: as a condition of pre-trial release (often with bail) , as a condition of parole or probation, as part of a sentence (especially in DUI cases), as a condition of release from an immigration detention center while a person awaits judgement in a deportation or asylum case, as part of a dispensation in a juvenile case. They are also used in cases of domestic abuse as a way of monitoring a suspect’s location in relation to past or potential victims.

What are the main types of electronic monitoring devices?

There are four major types of devices: 1) GPS ankle devices which track and record a person’s movements in real time; 2) Radio frequency (RF) devices which merely indicate whether a person is at home or not; 3) Cellphone-based apps that track location and other biometrics like heart and respiration rate; 4) alcohol monitoring devices which record the alcohol content in a person’s perspiration. These are typically used in DUI cases.

Who are the main players in the electronic monitoring industry?

EM contracts are typically made at local level. So every city, county or state that has an electronic monitoring program has a separate contract with a provider. Though there are many local services providers, a handful of major providers tend to dominate the market. In the past three years, these major players have been actively buying up smaller companies. The major players are:

BI Incorporated: a subsidiary of private prison company the GEO Group. They have made major profits by expanding the use of electronic monitors to immigrants through contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This profiteering has been widely criticized.

Securus Technologies: labelled a “carceral conglomerate” due to profiting off a range of technologies in prisons, Securus controls a major share of prison phone contracts. They are a relative newcomer to EM, having bought out Satellite Tracking of People (STOP) and Corrisoft .

Attenti (formerly 3M): The company that makes Scotch tape and Post-Its. Their interest in electronic monitoring has recently been bought out by APAX partners, a private equity firm.

Sentinel Services- a company also involved in running parole programs for profit. Their parole profiteering was explosed in a study by Human Rights Watch.

Numerex-a company that recently bought up a major producer of EM technology, Omnilink.

What are the problems with electronic monitoring that concern Challenging E-Carceration?

Challenging E-Carceration advocates for the abolition of electronic monitors and all forms of e-carceration. However, we also recognize the need for harm reduction as long as these devices are in use. Hence, we advocate for the rights of the monitored. These should include the right to: seek and maintain employment, access educational opportunity, obtain medical treatment, as well as take part in religious and community activities. Our focus is a response to frequent practices, laws and regulations that deny the basic human rights of people who are on EM. These include:

  1. The failure to recognize EM as a form of incarceration and give credit for time served to people on electronic monitoring with house arrest.

  2. Harsh regimes of house arrest that typically accompany EM. These limit an individual’s capacity to pursue personal opportunities and participate in the life of the community.

  3. Application of EM to juveniles. We have found children as young as 13 being put on a monitor and subjected to house arrest.

  4. Charging daily user fees for electronic monitoring. This shifts the financial burden of incarceration from the state to families which are typically very under-resourced.

  5. Application of lifetime GPS to individuals with certain sex offense convictions in some states.

  6. Lack of regulations regarding the data that is collected on individuals via GPS. This amounts to a form of unregulated state and corporate surveillance.

  7. Use of EM to impose geographical “exclusion zones,” which essentially segregate our cities.

  8. Use of electronic monitoring on immigrants which falls under civil, not criminal law.

  9. Disproportionate use of EM on people of color.

  10. Charging people accused of tampering with or removing a device with felony escape.


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