BAHAMAS 1 starThe use of electronic monitoring is becoming a transnational phenomenon, with places like Thailand, South Africa and the Bahamas joining the list of nations using this technology in criminal justice circles. However, a recent statement by the Executive Director of ICS, the company that runs the monitoring program in the Bahamas represents a bold move toward private sector entrepreneurs driving criminal justice policy.  Gari Gonzalez of ICS said that if people on monitoring commit crimes it is a result of their “exploiting the ability to roam free.” He called for the stepped up use of house arrest to remedy the situation suggesting that “the Courts should establish for each device-wearer a combination of inclusion zone, exclusion zone and curfew that must be strictly adhered to as a condition of receiving bail or probation. With this requirement, the person being electronically monitored would be confined to their home parameters and restricted from entering specified areas.” Gonzalez’s comments embody the stereotype of people on monitors, especially those with sex offense histories, as roaming predators constantly on the verge of committing new crimes. It is precisely the excessive use of house arrest and the extremely stringent conditions such as exclusion zones that often make an ankle bracelet amount to a regime of virtual incarceration.  The use of house arrest needs to be examined in the light of enabling the person on monitoring to successfully carry on with their life, not just inserted as the default position where those on the monitor have to beg for permission to go the store to buy a quart of milk.  Furthermore, when private sector vendors begin to get headlines for policy recommendations in which they have a material interest, state authorities need to step up and assert their position of authority rather than allow business concerns to dictate conditions of those on the monitor.  Certainly not all state authorities will be exemplary but outsourcing criminal justice policy decisions to private sector providers is a clear cut road to disaster.

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