ACLU Recommends Eliminating Electronic Monitoring – ‘E-Carceration’ – in the Criminal Justice System

By Rena Abdusalam 

NEW YORK, NY — In a new report, the American Civil Liberties Union is recommending changing the use of electronic monitoring, a form of GPS monitoring that pretrial, probation, parole, and immigration proceedings utilize.

“Rethinking Electronic Monitoring: A Harm Reduction Guide,” said the ACLU, is a solution-oriented report on electronic monitoring, and combines prior research on the topic and includes recommendations to reduce the harms of it.

By enhancing equity, the ACLU said it will continue the report until the electronic monitoring is eliminated.

A paralegal with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, and one of the report’s co-authors, Ayomikun Idowu charged, ““Electronic monitoring is a failed reform. Far from being an alternative to incarceration, electronic monitoring is incarceration in another form: e-carceration.”

Not only does electronic monitoring track whereabouts, it also appoints harsh conditions on the wearer’s movement, said the ACLU, noting it only allows the wearer a few hours away from home.

Basic activities, such as holding down a job, going to school, seeing family, and running errands, can be nearly impossible, the report said, adding many jurisdictions require payment for the monitoring — hundreds of dollars per month.

Being unable to follow these conditions can land a person back in a physical jail or prison cell.

To reduce the harms of electronic monitoring, the report advocates the best practices criminal legal systems actors can use, such as strictly limiting the use, establishing access to counsel for people, and advancing standards to allow the wearer a greater right to movement.

“Years of evidence shows that electronic monitoring does not achieve its purported outcomes of improving public safety, aiding in rehabilitation and ensuring court attendance,” said a Justice Catalyst Fellow with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and one of the report’s co-authors, Yazmine Nichols.

“In the report, we highlight low-tech solutions, such as court reminders and transportation assistance, that achieve these results without radically restricting peoples’ privacy and liberty,” Nichols added.

The overall conclusion of the report suggests a cost-effective and less restrictive replacement of electronic monitoring is something jurisdictions should consider.

“Policymakers and criminal legal system actors must stop thinking about electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration, and invest in real alternatives instead,” declared an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and Human Rights Program, and report co-authors, Allison Frankel.

“Until jurisdictions replace electronic monitoring, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys can use the ACLU’s guide to reduce the number of people ensnared by this technology,” Frankel added.

The report can be found here.

First-person accounts on electronic monitoring can be found here.

About The Author

Rena is a junior at Davis Senior High School and is currently exploring her interest in the criminal justice system. After high school, she plans to attend college and continue to pursue a career in law.

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