Children who end up caught in Chicago's policing and justice system are being outfitted with ReliAlert XC3 GPS ankle-cuffs supplied by the Track Group, who use them to log children's movements and to bark orders at them, as well as listening in on them. The children have to wear them 24/7 while on bail awaiting trial.
The company claims that the recording function in the tracking anklets generates a notification every time it is used, but its own technicians have testified under oath that the listening function can be covertly activated. Track Group stores all recordings of its interactions with children indefinitely.
The system illustrates the shitty technology adoption curve neatly: when we have a terrible idea for technology, we first inflict it on people who don't get to complain, until the edges have been sanded down enough to roll it out for everyone else. Kids are often shitty technology beta-testers, as are prisoners: kid prisoners are a match made in hell when it comes to shitty technology rollouts.
The argument for ankle-cuffs (spy-mic'ed or not) is that it increases bail compliance, but there is no evidence to support that argument. 90% of people on bail return to court on the strength of a simple telephone reminder.
Track Group is paid $3.68/day per child that they monitor. The company says that "out of an abundance of caution" they are disabling the recording feature pending a review.
Chicago's policing and justice system are among the most corrupt in America. Violent, corrupt, racist cops act with impunity, their crimes covered up at the highest levels, and in the very rare circumstances that they are penalized for misdeeds, those penalties are usually secretly waived.
The department has stolen millions from defenseless people and used the money to build out a surveillance capacity similar to the kind of thing America inflicts on occupied, hostile nations. They have a long history of torture and have never been held to account for their barbarism.
A 2012 study by the Pretrial Justice Institute found that nearly 90 percent of people would return to court with little more than a reminder of their court date. In the last 18 months, Cook County has released more than 24,000 people pretrial. The vast majority have had less-restrictive conditions than electronic monitoring, according to the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Just 0.6 percent of the felony defendants who were released between Oct. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018, were charged with committing a new violent offense while in the community, according to data from Cook County. Nevertheless, judges are hesitant to release people without restrictions and are using monitoring as a risk mitigation tool.
Juvenile electronic monitoring presents another set of issues that adults don't encounter, Staudt said. The monitors must be plugged into the wall regularly to charge, which attorneys say is often difficult for children who have trouble sitting still. Children are often forgetful and can face disciplinary action or be sent to a detention center if they do not charge their devices. Ankle monitors also subject them to stigma in school and among their friends.
"You're really putting a red letter on kids in their own communities in a way that can be really, really damaging," she said.
Weisburd, who has represented children with ankle monitors in Oakland, California, said her clients were often stigmatized when their devices would beep during the school day when probation officers were trying to contact them or when batteries were low. One client decided to stop going to school to avoid that situation, she said.
Chicago is Tracking Kids With GPS Monitors That Can Call and Record Them Without Consent [Kira Lerner/The Appeal]