Is Electronic Monitoring of an Inmate Similar to Prison?
As celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and political staffers like Paul Manafort are placed under electronic monitoring, the idea of awaiting trial or serving out part of one’s prison sentence from home seems appealing at first glance. This trend continues to gain rapid speed according to research conducted by Pew Charitable Trusts. In recent years, the use of electronic monitoring devices by law enforcement has easily doubled, spurred by the way this technology helps reduce the inmate population while still keeping a tight rein on those at home.
However, with everything that goes into electronic monitoring, is it truly any different from serving a prison sentence?
Electronic Monitoring Trends in Florida
Those wearing some form of an electronic monitor have quickly discovered that the freedom they thought they would enjoy is instead an experience of constant anxiety. These devices have become more of a shackle than an accessory once they start learning to live with the rules of wearing these electronics. Today’s monitoring systems use devices with built-in GPS tracking, affording no privacy to the wearer. This has become a worrying trend for many civil rights organizations concerned about the erosion of personal liberties guaranteed under the Constitution.
Still, the industry has become one of the fastest areas of growth within the private prison industry. Florida-based electronic monitoring vendors like GEO Group have provided services to hundreds of thousands of state residents in the past year, but the process has little national guidance. The Sunshine State provides minimal regulation for using such devices, and this means law enforcement agencies, parole departments, and courts must choose the type they wish to use and what practice standards to follow.
No Longer Used for Major Offenses
Another troubling pattern that has begun to arise since electronic monitoring devices became more accessible and affordable to law enforcement is their use for minor offenses. Electronic monitoring has been suggested for misdemeanors, traffic violations, and situations involving pending cases and post-release probation. These lower-tiered offenses would normally not require jail time, so the argument that having defendants wear ankle bracelets to reduce jail populations makes little sense.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also stepped up its use of electronic monitoring devices to track undocumented immigrants through a private immigration bond program. This has resulted in an additional $30 million in funding to add more monitoring devices, which some companies are requiring undocumented persons to where despite not being a provision required by ICE to receive a bond.
Features of Electronic Ankle Monitors That Are Worse Than Prison
As you may be realizing, the use of devices like electronic ankle monitors is not as convenient as it initially appears. Additional impacts and circumstances come with these technological tracking devices that wearers are not aware of until after they agree to the terms of their monitoring program.
Costs Are Akin to Debtor’s Prison
Those who use electronic monitoring to satisfy the requirements of their case, sentence, probation restrictions, or release from prison must pay for the costs of using these devices. Fees range wildly, up to $25 per day in some jurisdictions, and the monthly cost can easily exceed one’s rent. Worse is the fear of returning to prison for not meeting payment obligations with these monitoring programs, as can be read here in Florida Statute Section 948.09.
Life-Time Ankle Monitoring
Florida is one of several states with legislation requiring certain sex offenders to participate in electronic monitoring for the rest of their lives. The Jessica Lunsford Act is one such law in Florida, but many inmate advocacy groups argue paying a lifetime of related fees violates the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Out-Dated Landlines Are Mandatory
Another additional cost that many ankle monitor wearers don’t know about is the requirement to have a landline in the home. Florida is one of many states that still demands this type of telephone setup for the operation of monitoring systems. Since landlines are uncommon these days, the additional installation cost can be exorbitant, as are related fees to broken cords or devices.
Dead Battery? You May Be Sent Back to Jail
One of the primary rules of any electronic monitoring program is the wearer remaining in contact with a responsible law enforcement agency or court. If the signal is lost due to a dead or defective battery, or a power outage occurs and it isn’t possible to charge the device, individual wearers are regularly threatened with contempt and being returned to prison until their case has been completed or to finish their jail time.
Data Privacy Issues
Currently, those who wear an electronic monitoring device like an ankle bracelet agree to allow their whereabouts and data to be searched by their governing law enforcement jurisdiction. The more concerning question is where does this data go? Many government agencies rely on vendors to store the aggregated data in one location, and some states allow numerous levels of law enforcement to access this information.
Currently Being Monitored? Work With a Reputable Orlando Inmate Rights Attorney
Wearing an electronic monitoring device can compromise not only your privacy but your financial stability. Some equipment can record calls or conversations without the wearer’s permission, and these devices raise profound questions regarding the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. Electronic monitoring is equivalent to wiretapping, according to legal experts, because it could potentially pick up information spoken by those around you who are not part of your monitoring program.
If you have concerns that your ankle monitor program is potentially violating your Constitutional rights or you want to learn more about how to legally negate the need for such a device, speak with the knowledgeable team of attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm. As former Florida state prosecutors, we take the constitutional rights of our clients seriously and believe that everyone deserves a fair second chance, not ongoing prison time in another form. Contact us today by calling our office or reach out through our online contact form.