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October 13, 2008

Another example of the inevitability of technocorrections

This local article from California, headlined "Technology to track criminals will expand," shows yet again why the smart money, especially in tough economic times, is going to bet on the future of technocorrections.  I think this little article provides a big window into the criminal justice future, and here is how it starts:

As the economy tightens the reins on the rest of us, San Bernardino County is shortening its leash even more on a special few.  This is a group almost everyone is glad that someone is watching. It includes child molesters, wife beaters, drunken drivers and gang members.

The Board of Supervisors last week voted to expand the county's use of surveillance technology to track criminal offenders who are on probation or serving time on house arrest or weekends in jail. Some of the technology includes global positioning satellite surveillance, home-based electronic monitoring and alcohol monitoring....

And in these days when the taxpayers are taking a beating, this program is expected to pay its own way by requiring the offenders to pay for the equipment that tracks them. It's either agree to that or jail. Taxpayers get another break out of the deal. When the offender is out and about and being monitored, the county isn't forced to provide him with room and board, which is a big savings. It also helps alleviate overcrowding in the jails -- a chronic problem in San Bernardino County.

The county signed contracts with Total Court Services to provide alcohol monitoring and Sentinel Offender Services to provide GPS tracking and home-based monitoring.... The offenders will be charged $15 a day on a sliding scale according to ability to pay. It will cost the county nothing, and the contractors will collect the money. 

Some related posts on technocorrections:

October 13, 2008 at 08:37 AM | Permalink

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Tracked on Oct 13, 2008 7:09:27 PM

Comments

I think it's dumb money. First, I find it amazing that the good people of California find a need to track "wife beaters" which is some 70 year old smuck that got swacking at his lady, slapped her, and some noisy neighbor called the police.

Second, at what point in time does all this technocorrections make the crook wish that he was in jail. It sounds like prison to me already, only now society is forcing the crook to pay for it. What is this, someone's idea of criminal justice outsourcing?

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 13, 2008 12:20:48 PM

While I do not share Daniel's dismissive attitude toward domestic violence, it does seem to be an odd application of this technology.

For other crimes, such as burglary, the technology holds promise if we can make it tamper proof. If we know where a burglar is every minute of every day, and he knows we know, chances are he is not going to be climbing in your bedroom window at midnight.

I very much doubt that any criminal would actually consider jail to be preferable, as Daniel suggests, but if has committed a crime serious enough to warrant incarceration and finds the alternative unpleasant, that is still less than he deserves.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 13, 2008 12:58:56 PM

People spend a lot of money on cosmetics.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Oct 13, 2008 2:15:53 PM

If a method can be found to make a convict pay the actual cost of their sentence, either incarcerated or not, I fail to see that as a bad thing.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 13, 2008 3:00:23 PM

Kent. You missed the sarcasm in my post entirely. I am not making light of domestic violence, or even it's application in that setting. I am making fun of the term "wife beater" which I thought went out of fashion 100 years ago. Domestic violence is much more than beating one's wife (or spouse, for that matter; the term is very gender biased as it assumes that males can't be the victims of domestic violence). After all, if the person is truly a "wife beater" it should be easy to track him without GPS; he'll be at home, beating his wife.

Seriously, "wife beater" is an emotionally laden and pejorative term appealing only to the ignorant. If this type of labeling is what needs to happen to push technocorrections onto the public, heaven help us. Next thing you know, the nation will be taking away the civil rights of "child molesters" and locking up "enemy combatants" for an eternity without the benefit of a trial,

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 13, 2008 3:12:54 PM

Daniel,

If the CA gay marriage ban doesn't pass then there will continue to be female wife beaters.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 13, 2008 4:23:46 PM

Kent's skepticism, I think, is well-founded. I feel strongly that a prison bed is a scarce resource and that society should try to get the most out of scarce resources, and GPS monitoring could certainly help, but you have to worry about unjustified lenience working its way into the system. Generally speaking, a burglar should get time. I could see decisionmakers saying, well, they're going to get out soon anyway . . . . so let's let them out now, and oh gee we have this wonderful program . . . .

This could be a good thing for first-time DUI offenders other low-level offenders, as well as juvenile offenders. The feds should look into it for illegal aliens caught here.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 13, 2008 8:10:46 PM

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