An Associated Press story on Sunday focused on the electronic ankle bracelets worn by criminals confined to their homes and going to work.
The crime-fighting tool, introduced three decades ago as a way to monitor an offenders whereabouts, has proven to be so popular that law-enforcement officials are struggling to handle an avalanche of monitoring alerts that are often nothing more sinister than a dead battery, lost satellite contact or someone arriving home late from work.
Needless to say, with all the false alarms, many real alarms are going unchecked as offenders commit new crimes. Some agencies don’t have any protocols on how to handle the increased numbers of alerts, while others are lax in following them. When criminals tampered with their bracelets or broke a curfew, many alarms were not noticed, or it sometimes took several days for a response by officials.
Rob Bains, director of court services for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court said, “I think the perception … is that these people are being watched 24 hours a day by someone in a command center. That’s just not happening.” Monitoring in the Ninth Judicial District was halted this spring after two people on the devices were accused in separate shootings.
The AP found that at least 100,000 sex offenders, parolees and people free on bail or probation wear ankle bracelets that can sound an alarm if they leave home without permission. Trying to monitor alarms and deciding which ones are serious enough to warrant a rapid response can be difficult.
There has been an increase in the number of crimes being committed by offenders while wearing the ankle monitors, some very heinous crimes. This has led many people to wonder what good they really are doing and is it worth the money involved with this technology.
Proponents of electronic monitoring say while it is not 100 percent effective, the technology has proven to be affective in modifying behavior as well as actually preventing crime. Today, 39 states use the technology to monitor sex-offenders. The biggest user of ankle bracelets is the federal government, which tracks people on pretrial release and probation, as well as thousands of immigrants fighting deportation.
Looking into allegations of unresponsiveness to alarms has found that several problems are apparent. The overwhelming numbers is first and foremost, while the absence of a stated protocol in many cases to handle alarms is second. These and other problems have forced officials in many states to take a new look at electronic ankle monitoring.