On the cruelty of ankle-monitors

Ankle monitors are billed as a humane alternative to incarceration, allowing people who might otherwise be locked up to be reintegrated into the community.

But as activists James Kilgore (Understanding Mass Incarceration) and Emmett Sanders (Challenging E-Carceration) write, the reality of ankle monitors is that they are often used to impose additional monitoring on the kinds of people who were always going to be allowed out of jail, with particularly bad effects on poor people, who are billed for their own monitoring services (an expense that sometimes includes buying a landline — and for some sex offenders, ankle-monitors are a lifelong obligation).

Ankle monitors don't just work badly, they fail badly, too: if the ankle-monitor loses its signal, the person obliged to wear it can end up back behind bars. Worse still is what happens when a monitor-wearer is injured or ill: they are expected to leave their monitors on, even if it means doctors can't treat their wounds, and monitors are required even while you're undergoing surgery.

Finally, there's the question of the data these things collect on their wearers: it's retained for years, or maybe forever, and no one knows who it's shared with.

4. Don't Get Sick

Some medical procedures, such as MRIs, mammograms, x-Rays, and CT scans, cannot be done while a person has a monitor. Most states have no clear policy for removing the device in case of emergency. California's rules require the person to "carry an activated … device to the medical procedure" (e.g., into the operating room).

5. Hidden Costs

Many states still require a landline telephone (yes, a landline) for their monitors, adding a cost many households have long since struck from the budget. In Iowa, if you lose or damage the tracking component of the device, you'll pay $795 to replace it; a missing power cord sets you back $55.

Ankle Monitors Aren't Humane. They're Another Kind of Jail [James Kilgore and Emmett Sanders/Wired]

(Image: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick, CC-BY-SA)