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Voice of the Monitored

Keeping an eye on the monitors

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BI Incorporated

E-Carceration: The Problematic World of Being On An Electronic Monitor

http://www.alternet.org/human-rights/electronic-monitoring-restrictive-and-wrong

“Like hitting the lottery and losing the ticket. You are still incarcerated, no matter how you look at it.”

Photo Credit: View Apart/Shutterstock

Maurice spent over 15 years in Illinois state prisons. Before he was released in the spring of 2015, authorities told him he would have to be on an electronic monitor (EM). “I thought “maybe I’d actually need it,” he told AlterNet. He knew that life was fast on the outside and he figured a monitor might help “to slow everything down.” But after few days on a GPS-enabled ankle bracelet, Maurice realized he had made a grave miscalculation.

The monitor became a major obstacle to reconnecting with society. According to the rules of his device, he was only allowed out of the house Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 to 5. If he got a job interview on a Tuesday, he had to call an 800 number and the operator would phone his parole agent to request permission for him to go out. Many times the agent simply didn’t reply. So Maurice stayed at home, anxious to find a job, but even more anxious at the prospect of being returned to prison. Things got worse. After a couple of weeks, his device kept losing the satellite signal the GPS needed in order to track his movements. When efforts to restore the signal failed, his parole officer told him he would have to find a new place to live within 24 hours. Maurice had to scramble and move in with an aunt who quickly let him know she didn’t want him around. Soon he had to relocate again.

He ran into more problems when he tried to enroll in a mandatory anger management class. All the free programs were on Tuesday and Thursday but his parole agent denied him movement, so he had to enroll in a one-day course held on Mondays. That program required a $100 fee which he was forced to pay. When occasions like his birthday, Memorial Day and Mother’s Day failed to fall on one of his movement days, he was left at home while the rest of the family celebrated at the park or the beach.

Ultimately, Maurice started to reflect on the quality of life under EM: “I’m free but actually am I free?” He concluded that the monitor was “like holding something over a dog’s nose, teasing him with food…like hitting the lottery and losing the ticket. You are still incarcerated, no matter how you look at it.”

According to a recent Pew Research Report, Maurice is one of some 125,000 people who are on an electronic monitor in the US in a given year because of an encounter with the criminal justice system. Some estimates put the figure higher. In 2005 only 53,000 people were on EM. With the present push toward decarceration in many states, the use of EM is likely to keep growing.  Most devices now have GPS capacity, supposedly tracking the individual’s location in real time 24 hours a day. And it is not just people like Maurice who have served long sentences who are being monitored. The net for monitors has widened to include juveniles, individuals on pre-trial release as well as immigrants awaiting adjudication.  (Read more: http://www.alternet.org/human-rights/electronic-monitoring-restrictive-and-wrong

James Kilgore is an activist, writer and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. His latest book is Sister Mercy’s Revenge. He is also the author of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time (New Press, 2015).

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“Wearing An Ankle Bracelet Might Be Worse Than Jail Time”

MTM1MTM3NDc2NzI0NDUzMzQ2This article by Julie Morse for the Pacific Standard  summarizes some interesting research by UC Berkeley Law Professor Kate Weisburd.  She did work on the use of electronic monitoring with juveniles in California and found that in many cases it failed to save money, was extremely punitive and often landed young people back behind bars. She calls for a re-think of the legal status of EM as well. Very thought-provoking and great to see that some legal scholars are now looking at this through a lens other than recidivism.  Now we just need to deepen the dialog about the “rights of the monitored.”

Link to the article:

http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/wearing-an-electronic-monitoring-device-might-be-worse-than-jail-time

Link to Professor Weisbrud’s article on her research:

http://ilr.law.uiowa.edu/files/ilr.law.uiowa.edu/files/ILR_101-1_Weisburd.pdf

The Future of Techno-Corrections

Technology in corrections is trending. So is the use of electronic monitoring, especially with exclusion zones-areas where people are programmed not to go. In this piece I wrote for Truthout I explore some of the implications of “techno-corrections,” particularly their potential to segregate urban areas, keeping the “good people” in and the “bad people” out. Since large percentages of the population now carry GPS with them at all times, linking that to urban planning and “virtual gentrification” is one possible step for the future.

Link to my story here.

 

Monitors on Mothers At the Border Is Not the Solution

52,000 at fenceThe New York Times has published a story about how ICE is dealing with the 52,000 immigrant children on US borders: electronic monitoring. They have begun to release some people onto monitoring programs. As, Carmen Garcia, a woman from El Salvador stated when they put an ankle bracelet on her: “Why are you putting this on? We’re not assassins. We’re not thieves. We’ve come to save our lives.”

The use of monitors is not a solution to the crisis of refugees on the Southwest border of the US.  This is a political crisis that requires a political, not  technological solution. As a 2012 report from the Rutgers Law School concluded: putting immigrants on monitors is the equivalent of detention. It is not an alternative. Such moves are being driven by the profit motives of the major private corrections companies like The GEO Group who are heavily invested in monitoring of immigrants. The GEO Group, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, BI Incorporated has some 7,000 immigrants awaiting adjudication on monitors right now. The 52,000 on the border currently are simply a new niche market opportunity for these private companies.  Immigration policy should not be dictated by the profit interests of companies like the GEO Group who are invested in both private detention centers and electronic monitoring. No matter what punitive solution emerges, the GEO Group makes money. Yet another reason why a political solution to a refugee crisis  is the answer, not treating these 52,000 like criminals.

To read the New York Time story click here.

To read the Rutgers Law School report, click here.

G4S Under Investigation for Overcharging for Electronic Monitoring in the UK

The global security firm G4S is under investigation on contracts for electronic monitoring in the UK valued at more than a billion dollars.  International auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has been called into scrutinize the details of this 2005 deal, which involved G4S and another security firm, Serco. G4S is a mega-player in the industry with  an annual turnover of more than ten billion dollars and operations in 125 countries, including the US. Allegations include overcharging to an extent that according to one source, the cost of monitoring in the UK was more than ten times the figure for the US. While it is too early to determine the result in this case, the incident does remind us that electronic monitoring is big business and that global security firms like G4S (which botched the security for the 2012 London Olympics) and the US-based GEO Group view EM as a future source of enormous profits.  Untapped markets include the more than four million people on parole and probation in the US, high school students identified as disciplinary problems and undocumented workers.  Although in many minor criminal cases electronic monitoring may be a welcome relief from a jail or prison sentence, for those marketing the services future clients may more likely come from the ranks of those for whom an ankle bracelet represents an additional, profit-generating control rather than a respite from incarceration.

FAU President Resigns

GEO stadium picIn what is a first for those campaigning against private corrections companies, the President of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Mary Jane Saunders has resigned. While she was embroiled in a number of controversies, the major issue for Saunders was the GEO Group stadium fiasco. Under Saunders’ watch FAU granted naming rights for its football stadium to the GEO Group, the country’s second largest private prison owner and LARGEST SUPPLIER OF ELECTRONIC MONITORING TECHNOLOGY AND SUPPORT. The naming rights came as a result of a six million dollar donation to FAU by GEO. However, a campaign initiated by students of the college which eventually drew national support, forced GEO to withdraw its name and funding. So a venture that George Zoley, the CEO of GEO, had once called the “finest example of community outreach our company has activated in its history,” backfired and now cost Saunders her job.  If only the scandals in GEO-run prisons and its excessive advocacy work to promote expanded use of electronic monitoring drew such instant results as the football stadium debacle.

Mario Koran Reports on EM Technology Failures with Serious Consequences

Journalist Mario Koran has just released a story for Wisconsin Watch on the cases of dozens of people in Wisconsin whose monitoring devices have malfunctioned, leading them to situations of severe stress and sometimes wrongly landing them back behind bars. The video of James Morgan included in the report is a powerful voice of the monitored. Visit the story at: http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2013/03/24/lost-signals-disconnected-lives/

Welcome to Voice of the Monitored

Welcome to Voice of the Monitored, a website dedicated to waking people up to the realities of electronic monitoring in the US criminal justice system. Every day about 200,000 people face their day wearing an ankle bracelet. But with prison overcrowding and rising state budget deficits, those numbers will grow. Electronic monitoring is the wave of the future. It’s time for everyone to find out more about this-to make sure it doesn’t become a technological ball and chain. Here’s some links to begin to help you to know what’s up:

Link to the web page of Robert Gable, inventor of electronic monitoring who wanted it to be used as a way to send positive information, not increase surveillance and control. Read about how he feels betrayed by the way monitoring is used today:

http://rgable.wordpress.com/electronic-monitoring-of-criminal-offenders/

Is electronic monitoring an alternative to incarceration or a technological ball and chain?

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/30/the-rise-of-electronic-monitoring-in-criminal-justice/

Is the rise of electronic monitoring the result of the failure of our prison system? Graeme Wood of The Atlantic magazine thinks so. Read his story here:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/09/prison-without-walls/308195/

Read the story of big money in electronic monitoring: the $372 million contract BI Incorporated, now owned by private prisons firm the GEO group, signed with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to supervise 27,000 immigrants awaiting court decisions.

http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2010/03/16/who-profits-ices-electronic-monitoring-anklets-0

Should high school students with records of truancy be put on electronic monitors? Some schools in Dallas think so. Read about it at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/12/education/12dallas.html

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