The prison rate is dropping but the use of electronic monitoring is growing. Electronic Monitoring threatens to become a form of technological mass incarceration, shifting the site and costs of imprisonment from state facilities to vulnerable communities and households.
Electronic monitors have been in use in the criminal justice system for more than 30 years, but over the past decade the number of people monitored electronically has risen 140%. Public officials claim electronic monitoring is a safe and low-cost alternative to incarceration, but it is really just another form of incarceration. Beyond prisons, the use of electronic monitors is spreading as more and more immigrants, juveniles and adults in jails are being placed on these devices. Check out our infographic on electronic monitoring for more information.
While freeing people of the harsh conditions of incarceration is a priority, high-tech alternatives such as electronic monitors are not adequate. Electronic monitoring more closely resembles confinement than freedom. Through the use of GPS, people’s personal privacy is invaded at all times, while rules limiting movement make it difficult to stay connected to family members, secure jobs or respond to emergencies. Punitive fees force electronically monitored individuals and their families to shoulder the cost of the device. For some who can’t afford to pay, that means staying locked up. Unreasonable rules, make it easy for an individual to violate a condition of their release and consequently end up right back in jail. Without adequate civil and human rights protections, these devices threaten to become a new form of technological incarceration, something we’re calling Ecarceration.