Electronic Monitoring: Not the New Jim Crow, Just a Supervision Tool

By APPA Community posted 2020-03-02 12:00 AM


American Probation and Parole Association
Lexington, KY
March 2, 2020

Recent media reports have vilified the use of electronic monitoring. Some critics have gone so far as to call for a total ban on electronic monitoring, claiming that it is just another form of incarceration that doesn’t help justice-involved individuals.

The American Probation and Parole Association fully supports the appropriate use of electronic monitoring in community supervision. When implemented with clear policies in place that are consistent with the research on best practices, electronic monitoring can be an effective tool in larger case management strategies to improve client outcomes and enhance public safety in a more cost-effectively and humane manner than incarceration.

Electronic monitoring can:
  • Provide judges with a viable and cost-effective alternative to pretrial detention in cases where outright release is not an option.
  • Provide judges with an enhanced community-based sentencing alternative to incarceration.
  • Provide paroling authorities with a mechanism for early release from prison.
  • Provide community supervision agencies with an intermediate sanction response to violations prior to revocation and incarceration.
  • Provide the client with the structure necessary to stabilize their lives.
  • Promote public safety by holding clients accountable for their behavior.

Contrary to media reports, the use of electronic monitoring is not wide-spread. In reality, it is a lightly used tool considering that less than 2% of those individuals under correctional control are electronically monitored.

APPA acknowledges that the technology is not perfect, nor is the implementation. The technology continues to rapidly improve, and research is helping to guide policy. That said, more research is needed and welcome.

Ultimately, APPA believes that electronic monitoring is and can be an important tool when used properly. We believe that electronic monitoring should be used for only those individuals who require this level of supervision (as determined by risk/needs assessment or current custody status); for a clear public safety purpose; and only for the length of time needed to accomplish supervision objectives with incentives for early removal. Further, we believe that client fees for electronic monitoring should be eliminated or significantly curtailed and tailored to the individual’s ability to pay. Failure to pay fees should never be the sole justification for revocation and incarceration.

For more information, please contact @Joe Russo on behalf of APPA at jrusso@du.edu

A more detailed paper offering a point-by-point response to some of the major criticisms can be found via this link: https://www.appa-net.org/eWeb/docs/APPA/announce/2020-03-18-EM-Criticisms-Response.pdf. APPA's general Issue Paper on the use of location tracking systems in community supervision can be found via this link: https://www.appa-net.org/eweb/docs/APPA/stances/ip_IL.pdf

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APPA logo American Probation and Parole Association
Media Contact: Aaron Burch
Communications Specialist

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