Posted by Sam Fenny - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 23 February 2024

Unregulated, Exploitative, and on the Rise: Vera Institute’s Report on Electronic Monitoring

Incarceration rates in the United States have long been among the highest in the world, and in response to the systemic flaws and biases unveiled by the renewed scrutiny of the criminal legal system, many advocates have championed new policies aimed at reducing sentences and improving conditions in prisons. Some have touted the use of electronic monitoring (EM) as an alternative fix to ensure that people whose cases have yet to be adjudicated are not physically detained. Unsurprisingly, those most often making these claims are the for-profit firms offering EM technology and the governmental agencies they contract with, and there is little data to back them up. In a new report, the Vera Institute of Justice provides the most detailed data yet showing that these claims don’t match reality, and outlines a number of issues with how EM is administered across the country.

According to interviews and an analysis of policies across hundreds of jurisdictions, the Vera Institute found that the use of EM was an unregulated patchwork across counties, states, and the federal government. As private firms market new products, the level of testing and quality assurance has failed to keep up with the drive to get contracts with local and state law enforcement agencies. Relying on technology produced by such a disordered industry can lead to reincarceration due to faulty equipment, significantly increased surveillance on those being monitored and their household, and onerous requirements for people under EM than when dealing with probation or parole officers.

Even the question of jurisdictional authority is a mess. The Vera Institute explains that agencies frequently rely on private firms that further subcontract out the hardware or software, and individuals in rural areas can create profitable businesses for themselves that only serve as a middleman between the criminal justice system and the hardware and software vendors. The Vera Institute suggests that this can lead to corruption, including the extortion by these small subcontractors of people held on EM, often with no oversight or public sector transparency. That presents a problem to the data collection, public records requests, and other investigative work that policymakers, advocates, and journalists rely on to find the truth and inform policy.

Further, the costs of EM are frequently passed on to the people forced to use it, sometimes regardless of if they have the means to pay, whether the EM is an obstacle to their employment, or whether they are under monitoring pre-trial (where presumption of innocence should apply) or post-sentencing (after a guilty verdict). And these costs don’t necessarily buy them greater “liberty,” as many forms of hardware or app-based software increased around-the-clock surveillance at the hands of private firms, once again with little to no oversight or ability to access data through public records requests.

According to the Vera Institute’s estimates, from 2017 onwards the single largest user of EM in the United States has been Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of its Alternative To Detention (ATD) programs. And in the last few years, that usage has skyrocketed: Vera’s report states that between 2021 and 2022, the number of adults under ICE’s EM program more than tripled, from 103,900 to 360,000.

For those currently under ICE’s EM surveillance, their experience is primarily dictated by a single company: BI Incorporated, from whom ICE has purchased all its EM infrastructure since 2004. While BI’s offerings have recently shifted away from the GPS-enabled ankle monitors known to shock and cut their users towards smartphone apps and smartwatches, a 2022 investigation from The Guardian revealed that monitored people experience a lack of technical support from BI, frequent bugs that can prevent them from complying with mandatory check-ins, and few protocols for how their issues are handled.

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