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December 1, 2022

"The Progressive Case for Ankle Bracelets"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Newsweek opinion piece authored by Barry Latzer.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:

Many of the most progressive countries in the world are making use of technology to promote rehabilitation and reduce incarceration.  Yet blue states like Massachusetts and left-leaning advocacy organizations remain hostile to use of electronic monitoring (EM) methods.  They are overlooking the benefits of EM — even from a progressive standpoint.

Progressives' typically formulated criminal justice goal is laudatory: to minimize incarceration consistent with public safety, and to maximize the rehabilitation of offenders. But achieving these ends has been, to say the least, problematic.

Progressives commonly urge more addiction treatment and mental health services as steps toward rehabilitation. These treatments might be beneficial for many ex-offenders, but by themselves they are unlikely to sharply curtail recidivism.  Vocational training is also useful, but success measured by societal reintegration of ex-offenders is unproven.  Despite all that we've learned about rehabilitation over the last five decades, the inescapable fact is that over 80% of all prisoners are rearrested for new crimes at some point after they are released.

Virtually all prisoners return to free society — and more quickly than most people realize.  Only 20% of prisoners complete full sentences, and the median time actually served is a mere one year and four months.  Released offenders are then monitored by parole or probation officers, who are supposed to encourage constructive behavior.  But as we all know, these officers have enormous caseloads and cannot effectively supervise the volume of people they are assigned.  Under the current parole and probation system, there are, as a practical matter, few disincentives to crime, which is why so many released offenders are repeaters.

Each year, tens of thousands of probationers and parolees fail to comply with the terms of their release and are sent back to jail or prison.  In 2019, before COVID produced its own distinct brand of decarceration, 334,000 probation and parole failures were (re)incarcerated, which constituted 29% of all prison admissions that year.

Given these discouraging realities, the benefits of EM from a progressive standpoint surely are worth reconsidering.

1. EM helps ex-offenders avoid incarceration and reintegrate into free society....

2. EM can effectively replace incarceration....

3. EM protects crime victims, especially the most vulnerable....

Before we reject this useful tool to help ex-offenders turn their lives around and avoid wasted years behind bars, we should ask ourselves this question: Is there a better way to achieve reintegration into law-abiding society, while also taking public protection into account?  I submit there is not.

December 1, 2022 at 02:20 PM | Permalink


I agree that EM is a great alternative to incarceration and helps with re-integration, but with the caveat that it has to use software and hardware that are easy to use, work without constantly failing, are not painful to wear and are easy enough to conceal. A family member had to wear one, and it was big and uncomfortable, nothing like the modern technology that does basically the same thing but uses a lot smaller and user friendly hardware. The ankle monitor didn't need to be charged and was wireless, but it kept thinking that the wearer was outside of their home at 2 am even though they were fast asleep in their bed at home. The PO kept investigating, and finally decided that the wireless signal at the user's house wasn't good. So after 5 months, they switched to a much larger monitor that had to be charged twice a day. The infernal thing would start beeping like crazy out of the blue when the wearer was at work, and it was almost impossible to cover up with any kind of pant legs, so the wearer almost quit their job because of it. But, working was the requirement of the pretrial release so quitting work was not a good idea. The wearer was on the autism spectrum, so having an ankle monitor was a torture for them because they had sensory issues and had a hard time wearing even much smaller devices.
Long story short, EM can be a good thing, but the way it gets implemented decides whether it actually is or not.

Posted by: ANNA A | Dec 1, 2022 6:01:03 PM

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