Voice of the Monitored

Keeping an eye on the monitors



Kleiman’s Master Plan to Use GPS to Build Prisons in the Community

Mark KleimanIn his posting “We Don’t Need to Keep Criminals in Prison to Punish Them,” Prof. Mark Kleiman has come up with what he thinks is the solution to what he would likely call over-incarceration: relocate people in their thousands, including people with violent criminal convictions, to government apartments in the community where they would be under 24 hour surveillance, have a GPS tracker to record their every move, only be allowed out for certain basic things, and have their conditions eased if they manage to find a job.  At first pass, this may seem to make sense. But the essence of the proposal is to relocate prison from the current institutions to the community without changing much else. We will be building another network of carceral institutions right in the community (and you know they won’t be in the posh, lily-white  suburbs).  Kleiman sweetens his version of mass incarceration by promising individuals gradual increases in their freedom if they find a job. Hmmm, has Prof. Kleiman climbed into the body of a person with a felony conviction recently and looked for a job? And if there are another few hundred thousand of such folks on the job market, how will that look?

But setting that aside for a moment, how is this going to save money? His proposal doesn’t say anything about closing down dozens of prisons and laying off thousands of guards. And if we are going to cut the prison population by say 20% with this proposal, where do we find the money to buy or rent nearly half a million apartments? (he says they have to be efficiencies-one person only. Solitary, in other words.)

Like all utopians still mired in the punishment paradigm, Kleiman cannot come to grips with the fact that ending mass incarceration means that people with felony convictions cannot be treated like dogs on a retractable leash. Full human rights for full human beings. Relocating prisons to low rent apartment complexes without rebuilding communities is another cheap quick fix that will just add a new chapter of misery to the ongoing saga of mass incarceration.

Courts Consider Legality of Lifetime GPS Monitoring

Screen-Shot-2015-03-20-at-12.21.19-PM-640x484At least nine states impose lifetime GPS monitoring on people with some categories of sex offenses. The current court case of Torry Grady in North Carolina is examining the constitutionality of this practice? Is is a violation of Fourth Amendment privacy rights? Can it be imposed in a civil proceeding? In the case of Jones v. the United States, the court decided that it was an invasion of privacy to install a GPS tracker on a vehicle that was parked on private property. Does this have any relevance to tracking human beings? Ultimately, this current case in North Carolina raises the fundamental issue behind this blog: what rights and entitlement do people who are on  electronic monitoring because of involvement in the criminal justice system have? Also, is GPS monitoring a form of liberty deprivation or merely a condition like not being allowed to drink alcohol? Big questions as the use of GPS advances. Keep an eye on this case.

Swedish Firm Puts Chips Under Staff’s Skin

RFID-hand-550x412In Sweden (of all places) a firm called Epicenter is letting staff “volunteer” to have chips put under their skin. The promise is that with a wave of the hand, they will be able to open security door, access the photocopier and, in the future, pay at the cafeteria. The size of a grain of rice, these chips promise to get smaller and to end up with your Mastercard and lots of biometric data which can be tracked by all kinds of folks interested in your movements, your spending habits and all the rest of the details of your life. “Wait a minute Mr. Orwell, I think there’s a problem with your hand. Can you wave it under the scanner again, please?” We are moving ahead while moving the clock back 31 years. Oh yes, and what happens if your computer chip gets a virus?

For more details on Epicenter, read this BBC story:

Marissa Alexander-3 years in jail and now an ankle bracelet? C’mon!!

Marissa Alexmarissa alexanderander walked out of jail today after three years of being locked up in a case that has provoked considerable outrage. Prosecuted for firing a shot at an abusive partner, she first received a twenty year sentence then won a new trial on appeal. But rather than risk further imprisonment, she opted for a plea deal which would allow her to walk free, albeit with a wrongful conviction. However, she is not quite free yet. She’s got two years to do on an electronic monitor.  They have promised that she can go to work, carry out her parenting duties, etc. I certainly hope they give her more space to move than they allow most people on a monitor.  Fortunately, her monitor has already attracted some media attention so maybe they will avoid draconian tactics with her. To read more about her case go here to read Maya Schenwar’s insightful piece at Truthout and here to check out Sadhbh Walshe’s article in the Guardian.

The Voice of a Parole Officer Who “Keeps it real”

800px-Parole,_Inc._(1948)_posterAfter my experience of going to Europe and meeting with dozens of probation officers who think like social workers with a social conscience, it was refreshing to read  an interview with a NY parole agent who seemed to be able to actually talk honestly about the absurdity of parole conditions and the challenges faced by people trying to transition from prison to the community. In this wide ranging interview, he touched briefly on electronic monitoring. He said: “Show me one scientific document that links GPS to anything other than making money for GPS, Inc.” Amen. He also pointed out that the most absurd condition of parole, and one which is almost universal, is the regulation that blocks people from associating with other folks who have a criminal history or are on parole themselves.  These are the very people who can provide guidance and support to those trying to walk the righteous path. Yet, the infinite wisdom of this law categorizes everyone on parole or with a criminal background as another serious offense waiting to happen, rather than a human being trying to change.

Read the entire interview here:

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