[Pnews] Electronic Monitoring Isn’t Helping People on Parole, It’s Sending Them Back to Prison

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 12 10:36:39 EDT 2018


http://inthesetimes.com/article/21504/electronic-monitoring-parole-prison-expensive-criminal-justice 



  Electronic Monitoring Isn’t Helping People on Parole, It’s Sending
  Them Back to Prison

BY Talia Wright <http://inthesetimes.com/community/profile/323121> - 
October 10, 2018
------------------------------------------------------------------------

A new report shows that electronic monitoring is expensive, faulty and 
lacks regulation, making it harder for those on parole to re-enter society.

A recent report 
<https://centerformediajustice.org/our-projects/challengingecarceration-electronic-monitoring/nomoreshackles/> 
by the Center for Media Justice <https://centerformediajustice.org/> and 
the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center <https://www.ucimc.org/> 
found that electronic monitoring is harmful to previously-incarcerated 
individuals on parole and increases their chances of being 
re-incarcerated. The report reveals that electronic monitoring “limits 
the freedom and potential success of people on parole,” does not save 
money and lacks consistent rules and regulations. Furthermore, the 
report argues that there is little evidence supporting the effectiveness 
of electronic monitors, and that such devices can be used to broaden the 
scope of the surveillance state and act as an extension of mass 
incarceration.

The report, called “No More Shackles,” is part of the Center for Media 
Justice’s #NoDigitalPrisons campaign 
<https://centerformediajustice.org/our-projects/challengingecarceration-electronic-monitoring/>, 
and cites a comprehensive list of reasons why electronic monitoring 
should be banned.

“Number one, it doesn’t save the state money; it costs money,” says 
James Kilgore, lead co-author of the report and co-director of 
FirstFollowers Re-Entry Program 
<https://www.firstfollowersreentry.com/>, an organization that provides 
services and guidance to people impacted by the criminal justice system. 
“Number two, [monitors are] extending someone’s sentence who’s already 
done time. The third point that’s really crucial is there’s no research 
that shows that it does anything positive.”

Electronic monitors are ankle devices placed on individuals who are 
recently out of prison and on parole. Some come equipped with Global 
Positioning System (GPS) capabilities, while others operate using radio 
frequency systems.

The monitors come with a long list of conditions, largely set by a 
parole officer, that the individual must follow or risk further 
incarceration. Often, people aren’t aware of the full constraints of 
their parole and there’s no clear framework of penalties for an offense, 
the report says. Some people have reported more than 70 conditions on 
their parole.

The more parole conditions there are, the more likely an individual is 
to be sent back to prison. In 1999, parole violations accounted for more 
than a third of prison admissions (compared to just 17 percent in 1980, 
before electronic monitoring was widely used). In 2017, the Marshall 
Project found that 42 state prison systems 
<https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/04/23/at-least-61-000-nationwide-are-in-prison-for-minor-parole-violations> 
reported 61,250 people in prison for parole violations. Many of these 
re-entries can be blamed on technical violations––non-criminal actions, 
such as missing a scheduled meeting with a parole officer or failing to 
report a change in address.

“Those of us who have been to prison call it a ‘set-up’” Kilgore says. 
“There’s certain rules and certain programs that are a set up for you to 
fail, and electronic monitoring is one of those … it’s really easy to do 
something wrong.”

Electronic monitoring also creates a significant burden on the 
individual’s finances and personal relationships, says Kilgore. The 
individual must pay money to wear the ankle devices—sometimes up to $35 
dollars a day, Kilgore says. In some places, like Richland County, South 
Carolina, if you can’t pay you may be sent back to jail. The monitors 
make it difficult for people to hold down jobs or run errands for their 
families, as many are not allowed to leave their homes for more than a 
few hours a week. Family members are often subjected to random searches 
by law enforcement, and if another family member is also on parole, they 
may not be allowed to stay in the same home, the report states. 
According to a survey <https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/234460.pdf> 
by the Department of Justice, 89 percent of parole officers felt that 
people wearing the monitors experienced a change in relationships with 
their significant others due to electronic monitoring, and 43 percent of 
people wearing the monitors felt that relationships with their partners 
were negatively affected.

The Department of Corrections believed electronic monitoring would save 
money by freeing up jail space. (In Illinois 
<https://www.bnd.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/answer-man/article166830882.html>, 
for example, it costs $105 a day to house someone in prison.) But 
electronic monitors are expensive to implement and maintain. Either the 
state Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons must pay 
for the technology and hire additional parole officers to oversee those 
wearing electronic monitors, to make sure they are not violating their 
“geofenced exclusion zones” (areas where people on parole are not 
allowed to go). Not to mention, some individuals take off their monitors 
and lose them. In La Crosse County, Wisconsin, 84 monitors were lost 
within a two-year span. Each device costs $800 to make and there is over 
$35,000 worth of missing devices. Because electronic monitoring varies 
so much from state to state, it’s hard to track how much the government 
is spending, but La Crosse County is losing money. There, individuals 
serving a sentence are required to pay $12 a day for their monitors, but 
in 2016 Justice Support Services 
<http://www.co.la-crosse.wi.us/humanservices/docs/Annual%20Report%202016.pdf> 
only collected 44 percent of what was due––that’s $77,299 of $175,475, 
Government Technology reports.

The monitors often have faulty equipment, too. The Wisconsin Center for 
Investigative Journalism 
<https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2013/03/lost-signals-disconnected-lives/>reported 
that one individual’s electronic monitor triggered 206 “No GPS” signals 
within one year. On another occasion, one person’s electronic monitor 
started flashing incorrectly, indicating that he was out of range, when 
he was actually in his own home.

The GPS capabilities in some electronic monitors make the devices tools 
for surveillance as well. The report lists three private companies that 
provide data and tracking services to the government—Satellite Tracking 
of People, Sentinel Offender Services and Attenti—but it’s not clear how 
that data is being used after it’s sent to parole officers. Kilgore 
fears that data can be used to further oversee and punish people on 
parole. For example, The National Review 
<https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/12/electronic-monitoring-key-criminal-justice-reform/> 
reports that law enforcement can “geomap” crimes in the area and 
determine if an individual was near or at the crime scene at the time of 
the crime. Those on parole fear they will be penalized just for being 
near crimes they did not commit.

The report also discusses the possibility of “E-Gentrification”: 
geofenced exclusion zones programmed into electronic monitors that 
restrict movement based on demographics like income, citizenship status 
and criminal background. “Location monitoring offers the possibility of 
linking GPS to massive databases of undesirables, a virtual no-fly list 
for gentrified spaces,” Kilgore writes. Zones like these could severely 
limit an individual’s accessibility to jobs, healthcare and education, 
making it harder for them to re-enter society.

The Center for Media Justice’s #NoDigitalPrisons campaign aims to 
abolish electronic monitoring. In the first quarter of 2019, they plan 
on leading a series of public forums in Illinois. Organizers hope this 
report will encourage lawmakers to create and pass an Illinois bill 
banning the use of electronic monitors for parole.

****



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