In response 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.