Voice of the Monitored

Keeping an eye on the monitors


April 2013

Ridiculous Legal Wrangles Block Electronic Monitoring In Chicago

Today the Chgregs-bracelet-11.jpgicago Tribune reports that a spat between Sheriff Thomas Dart and Chief Judge Timothy Evans has brought the release of pre-trial people on electronic monitoring to a virtual standstill. In recent years, Cook County, where Chicago is located, has run the largest pre-trial monitoring in the country-claiming that over 250,000 people have been put on monitors by local authorities.  From July 1, 2012 to November 13, 2012, the county sent about 25 people per day back onto the streets while their cases were processed. Then somewhere along the way Judge Evans changed the language of his decisions from “orders” to “recommendations” and electronic monitoring ground to a halt. The situation came to a public head in an epic TV debate between Dart and Evans. The Judge argued he was giving some discretion to the Sheriff about who was to be monitored. The Sheriff responded by saying he needed an order, not a recommendation. And so it goes.  Who is going to step in and halt this battle of egos which keeps people locked up when they should be working and with their families. Who is going to intervene and stop the already over-crowded Cook County jail from teeming with even more people who often end  up being shipped out to other jurisdictions.

One of the most effective uses of electronic monitoring is for pre-trial people. Though the rules and regulations don’t always function in a rehabilitative way, the solution is not to halt the program while the giant egos at the top battle it out. Rather let the authorities come to their senses and continue with monitoring and keep yet to be convicted people out of the horrific confines of Cook County jail.

“What you’re doing is telling kids it’s normal to be tracked”

school bus imageKhaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center responded to the pilot project in Gordon County, GA which would put implement radio frequency (RFID) tracking on school buses. This would enable school officials (and anyone else with access to the system) to pinpoint the location of individual students who are supposed to be on the bus. Gordon County is but the latest in a string of school districts that have moved toward some kind of tracking of students.  As Barnes said, “what you’re doing is tell kids its normal to be tracked.”

For the complete article, visit:

We have reported in this blog on previous cases in Texas.

5,000 People With Sex Offenses Cut Off Ankle Bracelets in CA: Why?

A recent story in California reports that some 5,000 people with sex offenses have cut off their leg monitors. While law enforcement agencies claim to have rounded up 92% of these people, most within a few days, the situation will no doubt prompt lots of reflection on how to “tighten up” on electronic monitoring.  Already one legislator is preparing a bill to send those who cut off their devices straight back to the overcrowded state prison system. This measure comes largely in response to a case where someone on parole with a device did allegedly commit a horrendous murder-rape.  While clearly there is a need to prevent such crimes, all too often in the past one serious case such as the famous Willie Horton incident in the 1980s has triggered massive backlash and irrational punitive overreaction.

Tightening up the rules and regulations for electronic monitoring is not the answer. What is required is a serious investigation into the ways in which policies like “exclusion zones” render it virtually impossible for people with sex offense convictions to legally carry out the simple daily tasks of survival-from shopping, to traveling on a bus, to finding a place to live. While people with sex offenses generate little public sympathy, as the test cases for the use of electronic monitoring, the rules and regulations which apply to them are likely to become the model for others. For those interested in a detailed legal analysis of this issue, I recommend an article in the Washington Law Review by Shelly Ross Saxer.  She argues that exclusion zones need to be reviewed in light of the need to preserve the basic rights of people with sex offense convictions. Her conclusion is that the present policies amount to banishment, virtually driving people underground where they often become a social and economic burden on already overstretched low income communities. If the Californian authorities intend to expand the use of electronic monitoring, as it appears they are, they should do a thorough investigation of why 5,000 cut off their leg monitors rather than simply assume they have taken this action so they can go on some kind of criminal rampage.  People on electronic monitoring need a regime of legal rights as full citizens and residents of communities, not a hybrid version of second class citizen status imported from the previous eras of legalized inequality.

Texas Bill Would End Mandatory Tracking of Schoolkids

Texas House Bill 101 would rule out mandatory tracking devices for school students. The Bill states the following:

school district may not require a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or track the location of the student.

This  is an important step to stop this criminalizing of school children. For more information, visit:

Wisconsin Lawmakers Examine Electronic Monitoring

In responsGPS-JamesMorgan-prayerhands2-1024x670e to Mario Koran’s article exposing incidents where people on electronic monitoring were incarcerated or disciplined because their device falsely reported them out of their house, Wisconsin lawmakers are taking a hard look at the service and questioning whether they want to expand it to include people with a history of domestic violence. One of the victims of these technological errors,  James Morgan, is shown in the photo above.  Koran’s article has a video of an interview with Morgan.

While looking at technical malfunctions is useful, this is the tip of the iceberg of problems with electronic monitoring that require scrutiny.  Before the use of monitoring expands astronomically (as the private providers would like it to do) we need to look at the rules and regulations that apply to people on monitoring in general.  While most of the current media focus goes toward those who may commit crimes by cutting off their ankle bracelets, this is a tiny minority of those on monitoring. The vast majority face a different set of issues-difficulties in getting movement to go to work, to participate in family activities, to enroll in education programs.  The primary need is to make sure electronic monitoring regimes provide enough freedom for people to successfully face the challenge to get their life back on track and keep it going.  This is impossible if the rules and regulations of electronic monitoring focus totally on control and punishment rather than prioritizing promoting life successes for people re-entering from prison and jail.  Lawmakers must ensure that electronic monitoring is part of rehabilitation, not just a cheap and at times inefficient form of technological punishment.



GPS Monitoring Planned on School Buses in Tyler, TX

Texas leads the nation in finding ways to electronically monitor school children. Two schools in San Antonio are now requiring all students to carry GPS-linked I.D. cards on campus. Now Tyler TX schools want to give students a GPS card that they will have to swipe to get on a school bus so they can be tracked en route to school.  The setup costs for this and GPS monitors on the bus will be $134,000 at a time when schools are slashing so many educational and extracurricular activities, how do they spare money for GPS systems? For the story go to:

For more info on other tracking of school kids see David Rosen’s article at


People in Cali are cutting off their ankle bracelets and running free

A recent investigation by the LA Times reports that many of the 8,000 on electronic monitoring in California are simply removing their devices. The jails are too full to hold them and presumably parole officers are too busy to chase them down. Among other things, this shows that electronic monitoring needs to be a planned program not just a quick fix way to get people out on the streets.  Often part of the reason people cut off leg monitors is because it becomes almost impossible for them to get permission to move out of their house.  We need to know more about what is causing people to cut off their ankle bracelets rather than simply assuming they are doing so out of an urge for criminality. To read the story visit:


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