Respecting the Rights of Individuals on Electronic Monitors

The courts are allowed to use electronic monitors, ankle or wrist bands, on criminal offenders on probation. According to a recent study, using electronic monitors has more than doubled in the past decade and it also risks shifting incarceration costs from the government to communities.

The study also found out that electronic monitoring is mainly used on people of color; a subtle form of racism. Monitoring devices are used in house arrests or parole, juvenile & immigration cases, and probation. You should consult Toronto criminal lawyers to learn more about your right in a house arrest that involves electronic monitoring.

Rights of Individuals on Electronic Monitors

Alternatives to incarceration, such as probation and house arrests were introduced to reduce the exploding jails and prison population. A judge can recommend probation or house arrest depending on your case but you’ll be subjected to certain conditions, such as wearing a tracking or monitoring device. Electronic monitoring is ideal for tracking juveniles, immigrants with legal charges, people in rehabilitation programs, and DUI law offenders.  

The terms of probation or house arrest might include certain rules, such as the defendant can’t leave the restricted area without permission, and can’t visit the excluded zones among others. Otherwise, an alarm will be triggered when those rules are broken. You might need a full week or more to schedule changes to fit your schedule, such as work engagements.

You might be charged installation fees besides daily fees for using the devices and if for some reason the device disconnects, you can be incarcerated.

The use of tracking devices has increased by 140 percent in the past decade and over 125,000 devices are currently in use, with about 30,000 devices used on immigrants each day. Monitoring devices are commonly used in the states of Michigan, Texas, Florida, California, and Massachusetts. Unfortunately, most monitoring programs violate the human rights of those being tracked, including the rights of the members of their households. The following guidelines should be used when implementing electronic monitoring:

1. Opportunity, Rights, and Dignity

The terms of probation that involves electronic monitoring must ensure that freedom of movement is not violated and that the accused can meet their basic needs without unnecessary restrictions. Basic needs could include:

  • Executing parenting or other caregiving duties;
  • Accessing employment;
  • Accessing legal services;
  • Medical treatment;
  • Education, social, and religious activities.

2. Avoiding Net Widening

Net widening refers to subjecting offenders to harsher sanctions. For instance when an offender is subjected to probation or a non-custodial sentence instead of a fine. The term also refers to an administrative process where many individuals are under the mercy of the criminal justice system.

3. Economic and Racial justice

Electronic monitoring should be used to promote inequality by applying it only to people of color and the economically challenged or poor people. Installation fees, daily charges, and other charges should be abolished.

4. Transparency and Flexibility

Electronic monitoring rules must be transparent and should address each individual as a unique case and not impose “one size fits all” conditions or restrictions.

5. Electronic Monitoring Financial Burden

The costs of a monitoring program should be borne by the governing jurisdiction, including monitoring and execution expenses. The government must cater to the rehabilitation of offenders.

6. Credit should be given for Time Served

Electronic monitoring is applicable in custodial detention; defendants subjected to tracking should receive some form of reprieve for the time served under supervision or surveillance.

7. Privacy Rights

Authorities must impose measures to safeguard data collected from offenders under surveillance to ensure their privacy is respected. The various aspects of data, such as the type of data collected, retention methods & timeframes, and storage should be regulated.

8. Electronic Monitoring must be Humane and Minimally Invasive

Electronic monitoring should not be used for biometrics, brain analysis, recording–audio or video, inflicting pain, or spying on the household members or loved ones of the people under surveillance. Microchip implanting should also be prohibited.

9. Right to Due Process

 Individuals under surveillance have a right to due process which includes a fair trial, access to legal representation, the right to appeal the terms and conditions of the electronic monitoring program, and having access to tracking data.

10. Electronic Monitoring should be the Last Option

GPS-enabled trackers used on individuals under house arrest or probations are highly restrictive and should be a last resort for the sanity of the defendants being monitored. The terms of electronic monitoring should be minimally intrusive, and should never be used as a long-term solution.

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The Downside of Electronic Monitoring

The threats posed by electronic monitoring can include:

  • Electronic monitoring can jeopardize your employment;
  • Tracking promotes racial inequality;
  • Individuals under surveillance can’t respond to emergencies;
  • Tracking devices are subject to technical failures and can trigger a false alarm.

There’s no evidence that electronic monitoring can reduce recidivism but some studies show that the mental health of individuals under surveillance can be negatively impacted.