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Voice of the Monitored

Keeping an eye on the monitors

Month

January 2014

British Expert Supports Monitors Instead of Jail for Youth

warrenville youth facilityProfessor Mike Nellis, a leading researcher and policy expert on electronic monitoring, advises using electronic monitors instead of jail time for youth.  He was making this recommendation to the Scottish government which is investigating monitoring in light of the multimillion dollar electronic monitoring scandal involving G4S, the world’s largest security company. G4S admitted to over billing the government some $38 million on monitoring contracts.

Nellis said Scotland should follow the example of Scandinavian countries like Denmark where the assumption is that no youth should be jailed for a sentence of less than six months but should be placed on a monitor or other community sentencing option.

As I read this, I thought of a story which came out on January 16th about a John Howard Association  study of Warrenville ‘ youth facility for girls in Illinois. It costs the taxpayers $177,000 a year to keep one girl there. The downstate facility is a long way from home for most of the youth who come from Chicago. Not surprisingly, 63% of the girls are African American, despite Blacks being only 15% of the state’s total population. Surely Illinois youth justice authorities should be considering options like monitoring under a fair regime rather than locking these girls away hundreds of miles away from home.

Professor Nellis’ urging the Scottish government to follow the example of the Scandinavian countries is advice that US authorities could well heed as well. These countries have lower crime rates than the US and incarcerate at a tenth of the rate of the United States. The criminal justice system is no place to be following the policy of American exceptionalism.

To read the story about Professor Nellis, click here.

To read the Warrenville report, click here.

 

 

 

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Los Angeles Monitors Failing Badly

According to an Associated Press report, one in four electronic monitors in Los Angeles County is faulty.  The report comes as a result of an audit done of the performance of the provider, Sentinel Offender Services, a firm that has been contracting with the county since 1995.  The AP story emphasized that the situation was “allowing dangerous felons to sometimes roam freely for days at a time.” What was missing from the account, was whether any people on monitors were falsely reported away from their homes and disciplined or even returned to custody because of faulty equipment. My own research and interviews with people on monitors reveals that technical faults are common and many people have been wrongly rearrested because their device reported that they were in a forbidden location. In the LA County case reported by the AP, one individual allegedly had to have his device replaced eleven times because of malfunctions. The use of electronic monitors has escalated in California as a result of Governor Jerry Brown’s “realignment” program which has moved thousands of people from overcrowded state prisons to overcrowded county jails. Many counties have opted to release people who have been “realigned” by putting them on electronic monitors.

To read the story on Los Angeles County go here.

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