Probation ankle monitor

Probation ankle monitor DEFAULT

Ankle monitors can hold captives in invisible jails of debt, pain and bugged conversations

Increasingly, American jails are built without bars, razor wire or even guards. Instead, 21st century prisons are built from data. More and more, inmates are confined not by physical buildings but by GPS monitors, radio-frequency trackers and an array of other electronic monitoring. But make no mistake, electronic monitoring can feel every bit the prison as its brick-and-mortar counterpart.

The first time I stepped into a courtroom was because of electronic monitoring, the increasingly common form of surveillance used in lieu of posting bail or being held in jail, or as part of parole. It was in 2012, and I was a third-year Harvard law student representing a client at a courthouse in inner-city Boston. I shakily approached the lectern and delivered my argument, explaining why my client should be released from jail and put on electronic monitoring while he awaited trial. Whether through persuasion or (more likely) pity, it worked.

Not only are electronic monitoring devices being used more often, but they are also being used for increasingly minor cases.

I thought I had won, but my client’s ordeal was just beginning. His first panicked call for help came a week later. Police had showed up when his location tracker failed. And then again. And again. And again. It was a constant string of false alarms, each one of which risked a return to jail. Sometimes, it was because the power on the base station was knocked out, other times because the cellular signal was being blocked by the walls of his house.

It was torture for my client, and I don’t use that term lightly. A father in his late 50s, an immigrant with no prior charges, he was constantly terrified that he was about to be sent back behind bars until his misdemeanor case stemming from a family dispute was resolved. The day they finally took the electronic shackle off, he looked more relieved than when he was first let out of jail.


Experiences like my client’s are increasingly the norm, not the exception. At a moment when jail and prison populations are dropping, falling by 130,000 inmates since a peak in 2009, electronic monitoring is quickly expanding. Sadly, tools that began with the promise of releasing Americans from jail are now shackling many who would otherwise have been set free. And they are doing more than just tracking their movements: They are draining their bank accounts, compromising their health and even spying on them, which is why more safeguards against electronic monitoring abuses are urgently needed.

In 2005, Pew found that 53,000 Americans wore electronic monitoring devices. By 2015, the group found the number had grown to 125,000. There hasn’t been an official updated nationwide count since, but opponents of electronic monitoring believe it’s continued to soar.

The growth can also be seen in balance sheets: Electronic monitoring is one of the fastest-expanding sectors in the private prison industry. Take, for example, the Florida-based GEO Group, which reports that it alone is responsible for providing electronic monitoring devices for 100,00 people per year. Without any national guidelines or consensus, most police, probation and parole departments can set their own guidelines and choose their own brands of monitoring device, with various feature options.

Not only are electronic monitoring devices being used more often, but they are also being used for increasingly minor cases, including misdemeanors and traffic violations. So rather than simply replacing confinement, electronic monitoring is becoming the norm for many defendants who would have previously been released into probation, on bail or even on their own recognizance. This is likely part of why electronic monitoring seems to be growing faster than the reduction in the prison and jail population.


And electronic monitoring isn’t just expanding in the criminal justice system; it’s also being used to keep track of increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested an additional $30 million to add 20,000 tracking units in 2020. Private immigration bond programs, meanwhile, subject thousands more to electronic monitoring even when not required by ICE as a stipulation for receiving their bond.

Electronic monitoring compromises users’ privacy in many ways beyond tracking their location. One widely used electronic monitoring anklet has a feature that can record calls and conversations without users’ consent or knowledge. These devices raise profound Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns when activated in this way, as they transform wearers into walking wiretaps — not only for capturing their own statements, but potentially those of friends and family nearby. In Chicago, a jurisdiction that consistently promotes electronic monitoring, these devices are reportedly being used to record children.

Electronic monitoring inflicts a high price that goes beyond constitutional concerns. Americans are not only being forced to wear government tracking devices in record numbers, they are also often forced to pay for the privilege, on top of their bail. One driver who was arrested after failing to signal reported being forced to pay $300 a month for a device rental fee on top of a $179.50 setup charge. The first month’s costs added up to more than half of his $900-a-month disability check. For many, electronic monitoring can become a debt trap.

The first electronic monitors to come on the scene a half-century ago took the form of bulky, single-purpose devices, such as anklets that secured a location transponder to the wearer’s leg with a “tamper-proof” band. These devices, similar varieties of which are still in use, have caused an array of medical complications, including everything from cuts and bruises and impaired circulation to electric shocks, hair loss, headaches and difficulty breathing. These devices are also highly visible, opening up wearers to discrimination by employers, law enforcement and members of the public. More than 1 in 5 of those on electronic monitoring report being fired or suspended from at least one job as a result.

Some firms are now turning to a new type of electronic surveillance device: smartphones. These firms sell apps and software that employ the same sort of location tracking that Silicon Valley has used for years to follow our movements and target us with ads.

The problems posed by electronic monitoring will only increase as the technology becomes cheaper and more powerful.

While some believe these systems remove the stigma of highly visible tracking devices, others are fearful about unintended privacy impacts. For example, many of these apps record users’ biometric information, and the companies that develop them don’t generally provide details on how that data is saved or shared with law enforcement. Already, a majority of states use some form of smartphone tracking, and the number of apps and the variety of tracking tools will likely only grow in the coming years.

The problems posed by electronic monitoring will only increase as the technology becomes cheaper and more powerful. If we let the movement to reform prisons become a movement for virtual prisons, the consequences could be dire for those involved in the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems. The solution at this point isn’t a complete ban — not while it remains the only way out of confinement for so many — but we can’t allow unregulated growth to continue.

Albert Fox Cahn

Albert Fox Cahn is the founder and executive director of The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a New York-based civil rights and privacy group. He is a fellow at the Engelberg Center for Innovation Law & Policy at N.Y.U. School of Law and writes the Surveillance and the City column for the Gotham Gazette.


When Will the Court Order a GPS Monitoring Device?

GPS monitoring deviceMost people are familiar with the concept of a GPS monitoring bracelet that tracks the wearer’s location at all times and can’t be removed. GPS monitors are usually ankle bracelets that the court orders a defendant to wear when they’re on probation, parole, or house arrest. The judge may order a GPS monitoring device before or after a defendant goes on trial for a criminal charge. 

Judges may order ankle bracelets in lieu of or in addition to harsher penalties. Often, defendants prefer the limitations of these devices to spending time in jail. If it’s possible to wear a GPS ankle bracelet upon a conviction, your defense attorney will likely make a case for the more lenient sentence. Still, wearing a monitoring device is no simple matter.

How do Ankle Monitors with GPS Work?

Ankle monitors are electronic devices equipped with GPS technology. They’re strapped around your ankle and can’t be removed by the wearer. The tamper-proof bracelets must be worn for as long as the judge orders. These devices use radio frequency signals to communicate back to a monitoring station. They may be programmed to allow wearers to roam freely within a certain perimeter, and alert the monitoring station if the wearer goes outside of that area. 

When defendants try to tamper with ankle monitors, these devices send a signal to the law enforcement agencies monitoring them that may eventually lead to an arrest. In Florida, those who are ordered to wear ankle monitors are offenders sentenced to community control. 

When Might I Be Ordered to Wear a GPS Monitoring Device?

A judge may order a criminal offender to wear a monitoring device in addition to or in place of a harsher sentence. Some common crimes that result in being ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor include:

When You’re Accused or Convicted of DUI 

If you were arrested for DUI or driving under the influence of drugs, the judge might order you to wear a GPS monitoring device that monitors your alcohol intake. These devices, also called “SCRAM bracelets,” monitor hourly the user’s alcohol levels by testing the wearer’s sweat for the presence of alcohol. The data is uploaded to a central computer database where law enforcement can track it. Judges tend to order these devices before a defendant’s trial date because it’s more cost-effective to keep defendants out of jail while awaiting trial. 

When You’re Sentenced to House Arrest or Community Control

Judges sometimes order offenders to house arrest — known as “community control” in West Palm Beach — as an alternative to a jail sentence or as a condition of parole or probation. An offender may be granted house arrest if he’s in poor health or incapacitated physically. For community control, the ankle monitor tracks the offender’s location in relation to his home. Depending on the terms of the sentence, the judge may allow the offender to go to work, perform community service, and attend treatment or religious services. 

As An Alternative to Immigration Detention

Sometimes, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may order a person who is in the United States illegally to wear a GPS monitor instead of holding them in a detention center. ICE may allow unlawful immigrants to remain free until their removal hearings. Immigrants may qualify if they don’t present a threat to the community and if they’re a low flight risk. 

Fight Your Criminal Charges Today

With a strong criminal defense lawyer protecting your rights, it may be possible to avoid the worst consequences of a criminal conviction. If you’re not convicted of any crime, you can avoid wearing a SCRAM device that checks your alcohol levels around-the-clock or a GPS ankle monitor that alerts authorities the moment you step outside your permitted zone. 

Attorney Brian P. Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has proudly practiced criminal defense in Palm Beach for more than 30 years. Brian Gabriel strives to achieve the best possible result for our clients in each and every case. For a free consultation, call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form. e consultation.

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Electronic GPS monitoring within the criminal justice system isn’t widespread. But it’s become more prevalent in recent years.

In 2005, around 53,000 people were supervised with monitors, according to the PEW Charitable Trusts. By 2015, that number had reached more than 125,000 people. That’s a 136 percent increase in just 10 years.

Some people see the rise in electronic monitors as a positive alternative to mass incarceration because it lets people pay their debt to society while still providing for their families, host Arielle Duhaime-Ross explains.

But as this episode of the Reset podcast uncovers, the technology of ankle monitors doesn’t actually work very well, which means it ends up having hugely negative impacts on the lives of the people it’s meant to be helping.

Sarah Faye Hanna, a 34-year-old mom from Pipe Creek, Texas, wears an ankle monitor as part of her three-year probation sentence. She was convicted of drug possession in 2018.

Hanna says her ankle monitor is about the size of a packet of cigarettes. It lights up green when her location is available and red when it isn’t — which happens more often than she’d like. When the ankle monitor loses its GPS signal; she has to walk around outside until the signal returns. She also has to spend long periods tethered to a wall while the ankle monitor charges, which can make taking care of her newborn tricky. Hanna pays $300 a month to have it.

“I just I hate it. It embarrasses me ... I feel like it’s a little bit extreme. They don’t have justification to do this. I’ve gone to court. I’ve done everything that I’m supposed to do. It’s a lot of hassle and it’s super expensive. It’s an invasion of my privacy,” Hanna says.

There are many different reasons why people are ordered to wear ankle monitors. One is probation, as in Hanna’s case. People on parole may also have to wear them, after they have served their sentence. The US federal government uses them to monitor undocumented immigrants, as in the photo above. And people awaiting trial sometimes have to wear them, even though they don’t have a conviction.

Shubha Bala, director of technology at the Center for Court Innovation, describes a 2015 study she conducted with the New York County District Attorney’s office in which young people got the ankle monitors as a possible alternative to spending time in jail at Rikers Island. She observed that the monitors, which connected to the defendants’ phones, are often disruptive. In one instance, a student was kicked out of class because his phone had detected an issue with the monitor and it wouldn’t stop beeping.

“Would I personally feel like electronic monitoring was a good way to continue? I would say no. Some people see electronic monitoring as this magical way of knowing where someone is all the time. And that’s not what it is,” Bala concluded.

Later in the episode, Duhaime-Ross has an in-depth discussion with Robert Gable, the man who —along with his brother — has been credited with conducting the first experiment on electronic monitoring in the 1960s, while the pair was studying at Harvard University.

Gable and his twin brother Ralph set out to see if they could stop young people from committing crimes through a number of interventions, including by monitoring their movements and giving them rewards for good behavior.

Listen to the entire conversation here. Below, we’ve also shared a lightly edited transcript of Bala’s conversation with Duhaime-Ross.

Listen and subscribe to Reset on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify.

Shubha Bala

I’ll often hear, “But isn’t electronic monitoring better than jail or better than prison?” That’s the wrong question. My really facetious example is: Giving people ponies is also better than being in jail. But we don’t do that because it’s just a useless alternative.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

In 2015, Shubha studied the use of electronic monitoring within the criminal justice system in New York City. The District Attorney’s office of New York County was running a pilot program to test the use of ankle monitors on young people waiting for trial — people who might otherwise have had to spend time in New York City’s most infamous jail, Rikers Island.

The type of ankle monitor used in the program works by connecting to the wearer’s phone via Bluetooth.

Shubha Bala

We had one kid actually get kicked out of class because their phone kept going off. They couldn’t figure out why it was going off and the teacher said it was disruptive.

In New York, kids aren’t supposed to have phones in class at all. So what it meant is that we were already violating the kid’s right to privacy around these charges because we had to tell the teachers that they’d need to be able to keep their phone in class.

And then you think of what are all the other kids in class thinking. Because this one kid gets to keep their phone in class when none of the other kids do.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

Now it’s beeping and disrupting classes. And this young adult, who is presumably being monitored in order to keep them in class, is now being kicked out of class because of this surveillance system.

Shubha Bala

There is a lot of nuance that doesn’t really get thought of. For [the purposes of our study], it rendered the technology ineffective because we had to make so many exceptions.

This was one example but there were so many times where we had to turn off any alerts during certain hours. Then what’s the point? Why bother having a monitor?

We ended up doing exactly what we did prior to electronic monitoring: having a relationship with the principals of the schools and getting the person’s attendance once a week.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

The most old-school way of checking in is actually just saying, “Hey, principal, is this teen in class?”

Shubha Bala


Arielle Duhaime-Ross

So the same technology that was intended to make sure this student was in class became the reason he got kicked out. This student’s phone was going off in class because the ankle monitor was running out of battery and his phone was alerting him to charge it.

But his wasn’t the only problem the researchers encountered.

Shubha Bala

It only tracks people when it’s on or near the person and it has batteries and there’s GPS signal.

So that’s issue No. 1: it’s not a magic bullet that tracks where somebody is 24/7, constantly, no matter what.

Issue No. 2: It causes a lot of alerts. There’s a lot of information because there are a lot of components that need to be working for the monitor to work. Which means it’s information overload both for the person on the monitor and the person who’s supervising them.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

It sounds like this pilot project that you ran in New York City was not super successful.

Shubha Bala

As a technologist and policy person, I would say it was really successful in that we learned a lot of important information.

But in terms of would we continue? Would I personally feel like electronic monitoring was a good way to continue? I would say no.

Some people see electronic monitoring as this magical way of knowing where someone is all the time. And that’s not what it is.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

Despite all these problems, electronic monitors are currently used by the federal government, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia. But if the devices are so problematic, why are they being used so widely? And who’s profiting from that?

Shubha Bala

The majority of big companies that are in this space are companies that have been working in the prison industry for a long time. Those are the companies that are largely expanding their portfolio of whatever else they were offering to prisons and jails. And they’re expanding it by including electronic monitoring as an alternative.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

It seems counter to their business to suddenly be working on electronic monitoring when they were previously operating prisons or implementing technologies within prisons. Why pivot to electronic monitoring?

Shubha Bala

It makes sense. Hopefully we’re working on reducing the number of people that are in prison or jail, and that obviously really eats into your revenue if you’re running a prison or jail. This is a really great way to continue to grow and expand revenue even while people are not in jail or prison.

The decision makers — who I think are well-intentioned people — are not getting the actual nuance, complexity, and difficulty [monitors cause] for everybody.

What’s interesting about criminal justice technology is that the people who are using the technology, both those in the criminal justice system and a lot of the supervising officers, don’t get a voice in the technology.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross

After I spoke with Shubha, I had a question: How did we even get here? Who came up with this idea?

I actually talked to Robert Gable, a retired professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University and one of the people who’s been credited with inventing the use of electronic monitoring in the 1960s. He has some complicated feelings about how the tech is used today.

To hear Duhaime-Ross’s interview with Gable, listen to the full episode and subscribe to Reset on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify.


Incarcerated at home: The rise of ankle monitors and house arrest during the pandemic

In Alameda County, young people on ankle monitors are required to charge them daily between 7 and 9 p.m. They must get permission 48 hours in advance from their probation officer to leave their house or go to non-pre-approved locations, making it difficult to attend after-school activities, pick up extra shifts at work, exercise or go to the drug store for a quick errand.

Alameda County changed its rules in April of last year to no longer charge youth with violations for small infractions of the electronic monitoring rules, said Ford, the probation officer. While he could not comment on Canal’s case, Ford added that electronic monitoring for youth in the county is court-ordered.

In other jurisdictions, the rules are even more strict. For adults in electronic monitors in Chicago, their homes are subject to warrantless searches, and wearers have to submit a written request 72 hours in advance to go anywhere other than pre-approved locations, meaning even stopping for gas can amount to a violation. Copies of the wearer’s pay stubs may need to be submitted to the sheriff’s office, too, according to a copy of the rules obtained by NBC News.

Morales, of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said that for minor infractions of the ankle monitor rules, offenders are issued a warning, but a person can be reincarcerated for multiple violations. Morales also said the 72-hour advance request for additional movement is necessary because of the high volume of requests the department has to process from people on ankle monitors.

Pay per day

Though electronic monitoring is cheaper for municipalities and states than jail, the cost of the surveillance device is often passed on to the people wearing them. And during the pandemic, when millions of people lost their jobs and unemployment benefits were backlogged, that cost added up.

In at least 30 states, agencies require those who are placed in an electronic monitor to pay between $2 and $20 a day to wear one, not including activation fees that some counties tack on, according to Weisburd’s research. In areas like Baltimore County, Maryland, the hundreds of dollars a month people assigned to ankle monitors awaiting trial were paying as court dates continued to be delayed due to the pandemic became such a burden that the county moved to eliminate ankle monitor fees altogether.

Ankle monitors can be so expensive that some people in the system must choose between paying rent or their electronic monitor fees, according to Kilgore, with Challenging E-Carceration. Those fees are sometimes paid directly to the private companies contracted to provide the ankle monitors by law enforcement. Kilgore also wore an ankle monitor for a year as a condition of his parole.

While the cost of incarceration is higher than the cost of an ankle monitor and being on house arrest for many is a better option than being in jail, in places like Chicago, the majority of people who are on electronic monitoring are awaiting trial and have yet to be convicted. But unlike other jurisdictions, Cook County does not charge offenders.

"People are supposed to have a presumption of innocence," said Patrice James, director of community justice at the Chicago-based Shriver Center on Poverty Law. "But when you put people on electronic monitoring, you’ve not solved the incarceration problem. It just shifts the jail cell to inside our communities, inside our apartment complexes and to our residential blocks."

Technical difficulties

Like so many electronics, ankle monitors also don’t always work.

When the electronic monitor senses a violation, whether from not being charged at the right time or when someone steps outside their house at the wrong time, the company running the monitor notifies law enforcement. Then officers may be sent to the wearer’s home or work.

With the dramatic increase of people on ankle monitors during the pandemic in Chicago, local watchdogs say they’re seeing a rise in violations for small infractions. Matthew McLoughlin, an organizer with the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, said he’s also seen an increase in more false violations and technical glitches for people whose ankle monitors rely on GPS tracking.

“I was talking to a gentleman who had an escape case because he was late getting home from work and had to charge the monitor. He was in Zoom court when they told him they were filing an escape case against him,” McLoughlin said.

Still, Joseph Russo, a board member of the American Parole and Probation Association, said overall, electronic monitors can be a reliable tool for tracking offenders who need a high level of supervision and they can help link people to crimes. One of the rioters who investigators say broke into the Capitol in January was caught because he was wearing an ankle monitor.

“Some people might be deterred who know their location might be tracked. But we’re not dealing with folks who always apply rational thinking to their behaviors,” Russo said. “There’s countless news reports of people being tracked back to murders and other crimes based on their ankle bracelets.”

Growing up

Evelyn Canal now is a Dream Beyond Bars fellow with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides support and advocates to end youth incarceration and criminalization in California. She’s working with the group to pass the Juvenile Justice Realignment bill, which determines what will happen to incarcerated youth in California after state facilities are closed by 2023.

She’s also working to advocate for increased funding for California’s Office of Youth and Community Restoration, which she said could have helped her when she was having trouble with her probation officers and her ankle monitor and felt there was nowhere to turn.

From a criminal justice reform perspective, Weisburd, the law professor, said there’s no empirical evidence that the technology is rehabilitative and that “more often than not people are both on monitors and are in custody because they cycle in and out on small violations.”

“Viewing electronic surveillance as an alternative to incarceration furthers and perpetuates a dangerous false binary between incarceration or monitoring and ignores an obvious third option, which is freedom,” she said.

April Glaser

April Glaser is a reporter on the tech investigations team for NBC News in San Francisco.


Ankle monitor probation

Do Ankle Monitors have Microphones?

Posted on March 14, 2020 in Arizona Law

Ankle monitors are regularly ordered by judges as an alternative to serving time in a prison or jail. They are most commonly used during probation or for pre-trial conditions that allow the defendant to be released to either have local restrictions of where they can go or in-home confinement.

With the advancement of technology, several issues have been raised about how much information ankle monitors should be allowed to collect including whether they should have microphones. However, ankle monitors do not currently have microphones.

Ankle Monitor Basics

Ankle monitors are a form of surveillance. They are an electronic device that is fitted to a person and worn around the ankle. They are also called ankle bracelets or ankle tags. They are commonly worn by defendants who have been sentenced to house arrest or those who are on parole or probation.

The monitor works by transmitting the location of the person wearing it via GPS. This way, law enforcement is able to track them and make sure they are in compliance with their court orders. If a person attempts to remove the bracelet, an alarm will be triggered and police will be dispatched to your last known location.

There are additional uses of ankle monitors, including an alternative to detention by tracking undocumented immigrants who may be facing removal from the United States. Technology has advanced so much that they can also be used in some cases to monitor alcohol consumption for repeat offenders of drinking-related crimes like repeated DUIs. These devices can either measure blood-alcohol content through the skin of the wearer or they can provide remote breathalyzer testing.

Criticism of Ankle Monitors

The purpose of the monitor is to allow the person to continue with some semblance of their regular life while they await further court direction. In theory, they should be able to tie up loose ends in their lives and prepare their families for possibly lengthy prison terms. However, critics of the monitors claim that there are too many issues with them and they do not fulfill their intended purpose.

One major criticism of ankle monitors is that they have no secondary checks for the information they collect. Many defendants claim that their monitors reported incorrect data which landed them longer prison sentences or got them wrongly accused of further crimes. Batteries in the monitors can also go bad and lose power, which causes the signal to be lost. This would trigger law enforcement to come and arrest the person.

They also do not allow for emergencies like if a patient is wearing one but needs to be transported to a different hospital far away for specialized treatment. Also, MRIs, x-rays, mammograms, and CT scans cannot be performed on people wearing the monitors. Most states do not have laws in place for this type of situation, so a person risks being arrested if they choose to take off their monitor to have a medically required scan.

A final major criticism of monitors is who owns the data it collects. Surprisingly, this information is not really shared or known. The law enforcement agency in charge of monitoring the person certainly has some ownership rights to the data, but other departments in both the federal and state level may also access it. The data is usually collected through third-party companies who then also have some right to it.

Ankle Monitors Do Not Have Microphones

As of now, ankle monitors do not have microphones. They are mostly GPS-run and are only used to show your location. Those that don’t have GPS are only used to make sure you stay within a limited area, like those worn by individuals who have been released on house arrest.

A court may order an ankle-monitor-wearer to have a landline phone located in the area they are confined to. If this is the case, the person would need to always wear the bracelet and should be prepared to answer the phone at any time. The police can then use their software to call and check that you are at the location. They have access to voice recognition software to confirm that the person who answers is the person they are monitoring.

While microphones may not be a standard part of wearing ankle monitors, there are currently no rules or regulations that specifically stop the practice from happening in the future. However, privacy concerns would more than likely quickly draw quick criticism. For example, someone wearing a monitor should be able to expect privacy during some situations such as using the bathroom. Also, others who are not monitored but interact with the person wearing the ankle bracelet have a right to privacy and to not be recorded without their consent.

House arrest hack beat an ankle monitor

Electronic monitoring: Important information for offenders

About electronic monitoring as part of your sentence/order

The Court or the New Zealand Parole Board has imposed electronic monitoring as part of your sentence/order. This requires you to wear a tracker on your ankle 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. A monitoring unit will be placed at your home address.

Your Probation Officer will visit you to complete a full sentence/order induction which will explain the details of your sentence/order and provide you with further information.

The conditions of your sentence/order will determine when you MUST remain at your home address. If you require an absence to leave your address during your curfew, you MUST speak with your Probation Officer and get this approved.

What if there is an emergency?

You can leave without permission ONLY:

  1. to seek urgent medical or dental treatment; or
  2. to avoid or minimise a serious risk of death or injury to you or any other person (such as fire, earthquake, flood or violence).

Should you need to leave the address in an emergency, you may do so but you MUST contact your Probation Officer as soon as possible to advise them of the emergency.  This information will be explained to you by your Probation Officer at your sentence/order induction.

If you leave the address in an emergency you MUST contact your Probation Officer as soon as possible.

Electronically monitored boundary

The boundary is the area in which you MUST remain during your curfew. This has been defined by your Probation Officer. If you have any questions about your boundary, please discuss with your Probation Officer.

Electronic monitoring equipment


Electronic Monitoring Equipment

Charging your tracker

If you have a GPS tracker you will be required to charge this for 2 hours every day. The cordless charger enables you to charge your tracker without being tethered to a power socket and will allow you to carry out most normal activities in your home environment while charging.

To charge your tracker unplug the cordless charger from the power lead and attach it to the base of the tracker.

You need to charge your GPS tracker for two (2) hours every day.

How long does it take to fully charge?

To fully charge a low tracker battery will take approximately 2 hours. The “Power” light on the charger turns from red to green when the battery is fully charged. The tracker vibrates when being connected to, and disconnected from, the charger. The tracker will also vibrate when the tracker’s battery levels are low indicating that you need to immediately charge your tracker.

What if the tracker or monitoring unit is damaged?

Any damage must be immediately reported to your Probation Officer. You must provide all information about how the unit got damaged. If the damage is intentional, you will be pursued through the courts for reparation.

Taking care of your electronic monitoring equipment:


  • have the cordless battery attached to the tracker when bathing or showering
  • let the cordless charger get wet (GPS only)
  • move the monitoring unit
  • open any of the equipment
  • unplug the monitoring unit
  • cover the monitoring unit
  • let the monitoring unit get wet
  • paint or otherwise modify any of the equipment
  • expose the equipment to heat or cold
  • damage the equipment in any way
  • tamper with the equipment in any way
  • leave the address when the cordless charger is attached to your tracker.

Having a shower or a bath while wearing your tracker is OK.

Who are the Field Officers?

A person from the monitoring company who will install, maintain and check the monitoring equipment and respond to any alerts. The Department contracts 3M to provide and manage the monitoring equipment and the Monitoring Centre. 3M staff carry out all electronic monitoring field services including installing and servicing your electronic monitoring equipment and responding to alerts. Field Officers will wear a 3M/FIRST Security identification at all times and will be in a FIRST Security uniform.

Who to contact about your sentence/order

All queries should be directed to your Probation Officer in the first instance. Should you have any questions about your sentence/order contact your Probation Officer.

If you require urgent/emergency assistance after 5pm on weekdays or on the weekend contact the Corrections Services team on 0800 555 677.

How can I find out more about electronic monitoring?


Now discussing:

Electronic tagging

Form of surveillance

Electronic tagging is a form of surveillance that uses an electronic device affixed to a person.

In some jurisdictions, an electronic tag fitted above the ankle is used for people as part of their bail or probation conditions. It is also used in healthcare settings and in immigration contexts. Electronic tagging can be used in combination with the global positioning system (GPS). For short-range monitoring of a person that wears an electronic tag, radio frequency technology is used.


The electronic monitoring of humans found its first commercial applications in the 1980s. Portable transceivers that could record the location of volunteers were first developed by a group of researchers at Harvard University in the early 1960s. The researchers cited the psychological perspective of B. F. Skinner as underpinning for their academic project. The portable electronic tag was called behavior transmitter-reinforcer and could transmit data two-ways between a base station and a volunteer who simulated a young adult offender. Messages were supposed to be sent to the tag, so as to provide positive reinforcement to the young offender and thus assist in rehabilitation. The head of this research project was Ralph Kirkland Schwitzgebel and his twin brother collaborator, Robert Schwitzgebel (family name later shortened to Gable).[1][2] The main base-station antenna was mounted on the roof of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church; the minister was the dean of the Harvard Divinity School.[2][3]

Reviewers of the prototype electronic tagging strategy were skeptical. In 1966, the Harvard Law Review ridiculed the electronic tags as Schwitzgebel Machine and a myth emerged, according to which the prototype electronic tagging project used brain implants and transmitted verbal instructions to volunteers. The editor of a well-known U.S. government publication, Federal Probation, rejected a manuscript submitted by Ralph Kirkland Schwitzgebel, and included a letter which read in part: "I get the impression from your article that we are going to make automatons out of our parolees and that the parole officer of the future will be an expert in telemetry, sitting at his large computer, receiving calls day and night, and telling his parolees what to do in all situations and circumstances [...] Perhaps we should also be thinking about using electronic devices to rear our children. Since they do not have built-in consciences to tell them right from wrong, all they would have to do is to push the 'mother' button, and she would take over the responsibility for decision-making."[4]Laurence Tribe in 1973 published information on the failed attempts by those involved in the project to find a commercial application for electronic tagging.[5]

In the U.S., the 1970s saw an end of rehabilitative sentencing, including for example discretionary parole release. Those found guilty of a criminal offense were sent to prison, leading to sudden increase in the prison population. Probation became more common, as judges saw the potential of electronic tagging, leading to an increasing emphasis on surveillance. Advances in computer-aided technology made offender monitoring feasible and affordable. After all, the Schwitzgebel prototype had been built out of surplus missile tracking equipment.[6] A collection of early electronic monitoring equipment is housed at the National Museum of Psychology in Akron, Ohio.[7]

The attempt to monitor offenders became moribund until, in 1982, Arizona state district judge, Jack Love, convinced a former sales representative of Honeywell Information Systems, Michael T. Goss, to start a monitoring company, National Incarceration Monitor and Control Services (NIMCOS).[8] The NIMCOS company built several credit card-sized transmitters that could be strapped onto an ankle.[9] The electronic ankle tag transmitted a radio signal every 60 seconds, which could be picked up by a receiver that was no more than 45 metres (148 ft) away from the electronic tag. The receiver could be connected to a telephone, so that the data from the electronic ankle tag could be sent to a mainframe computer. The design aim of the electronic tag was the reporting of a potential home detention breach.[10] In 1983, judge Jack Love in a state district court imposed home curfew on three offenders who had been sentenced to probation. The home detention was a probation condition and entailed 30 days of electronic monitoring at home.[11] The NIMCOS electronic ankle tag was trialed on those three probationers, two of which re-offended. Thus, while the goal of home confinement was satisfied, the aim of reducing crime through probation was not.[12]


Medical and health[edit]

The use of electronic monitoring in medical practice, especially as it relates to the tagging of the elderly and people with dementia, has generated controversy and media attention.[13] Elderly people in care homes can be tagged with the same electronic monitors used to keep track of young offenders. For people suffering from dementia, electronic monitoring might be beneficially used to prevent them from wandering away.[13] The controversy regarding medical use relates to two arguments, one about the safety of the patients and the other about their privacy and human rights.[14] At over 40%, there is a high prevalence of wandering among patients with dementia. Of the several methods deployed to keep them from wandering, it is reported that 44% of wanderers with dementia have been kept behind closed doors at some point.[15] Other solutions have included constant surveillance, use of makeshift alarms and, the use of various drugs that carry the risk of adverse effects.[14]


Smartphones feature location-based apps to use information from global positioning system (GPS) networks to determine the phone's approximate location.[16]


A company in Japan has created GPS-enabled uniforms and backpacks.[17] School children in distress would be able to hit a button, immediately summoning a security agent to their location.


Public transit vehicles are outfitted with electronic monitoring devices that communicate with GPS systems, tracking their location. App developers have integrated this technology with mobile-phone apps. Now, passengers are able to receive accurate public transit timetables.[18]


An ankle monitor used for electronic tagging in Massachusetts.

The use of ankle bracelets, or other electronic monitoring devices, have proven to be effective in research studies and possibly deter crime.[19]

Several factors have been identified as necessary to render electronic monitoring effective: appropriately selecting offenders, robust and appropriate technology, fitting tags promptly, responding to breaches promptly, and communication between the criminal justice system and contractors. The Quaker Council for European Affairs thinks that for electronic monitoring to be effective, it should serve to halt a developing criminal career.[20]

The National Audit Office in England and Wales commissioned a survey to examine the experiences of electronically monitored offenders and the members of their family. The survey revealed that there was common agreement among survey respondents that electronic monitoring was a more effective punitive measure than fines, and that it was generally more effective than community service. An interviewed offender is credited with saying: "You learn more about other crimes [in prison] and I think it gives you a taste to do other crimes because you've sat listening to other people."[21]

In 2006, Kathy Padgett, William Bales, and Thomas Bloomberg conducted an evaluation of 75,661 Florida offenders placed on home detention from 1998 to 2002,[19] in which only a small percentage of these offenders was made to wear an electronic monitoring device. Offenders with electronic tagging were compared to those on home detention without. The factors thought to influence the success or failure of community supervision, including type of electronic monitoring device used and criminal history, were measured.[22] The results showed that offenders who wore electronic tags were both 91.2 percent less likely to abscond and 94.7 percent less likely to commit new offenses, than unmonitored offenders.[22]


The electronic monitoring of a person, on whom an electronic tag is fitted, does not physically restrain this person from leaving a certain area, nor does it prevent this person from re-offending — the primary aim of probation. Furthermore, the public perception of home detention is that it is a form of lenient punishment.[23]

As early as 1988, the Penal Affairs Committee of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), wrote a briefing in its Green Paper strongly opposing the adoption of electronic monitoring in England and Wales. The Committee noted all the claims made in favor of electronic monitoring but insisted that all such claims could be ‘either demolished or rendered invalid' by arguments against it. The major argument or criticism against it was that on the basis of past experience, electronic monitoring would not absolutely be used on people at risk of custody, but on people who would otherwise have been granted probation or community service. This would lead to a widening of the net of control rather than reducing prison population; it would undermine constructive and supportive interventions. The Penal Committee concluded that the degrading monitoring of fellow human beings, electronically, was morally wrong and unacceptable.[24]

In the US in 1990, Ronald Corbett and Gary T. Marx criticized the use of electronic monitoring in a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Baltimore. In the paper, which was later published in the Justice Quarterly, the authors described ‘the new surveillance' technology as sharing some ethos and the information-gathering techniques found in maximum-security prisons thereby allowing them to diffuse into the broader society. They remarked that ‘we appear to be moving toward, rather than away from, becoming a "maximum-security society".[25] The authors acknowledged the data mining capacity of electronic monitoring devices when they stated that "data in many different forms, from widely separated geographical areas, organizations, and time periods, can easily be merged and analyzed".[25]

In 2013, it was reported that many electronic monitoring programs throughout the US were not staffed appropriately.[26] George Drake, a consultant who worked on improving the systems said "Many times when an agency is budgeted for electronic-monitoring equipment, it is only budgeted for the devices themselves". He added that the situation was ‘like buying a hammer and expecting a house to be built. It's simply a tool, and it requires a professional to use that tool and run the program.' Drake warned that programs can get out of control if officials don't develop stringent protocols for how to respond to alerts and don't manage how alerts are generated: "I see agencies with so many alerts that they can't deal with them," Drake said. "They end up just throwing their hands up and saying they can't keep up with them." In Colorado, a review of alert and event data, obtained from the Colorado Department of Corrections under an open-records request, was conducted by matching the names of parolees who appeared in that data with those who appeared in jail arrest records. The data revealed that 212 parole officers were saddled with the duty of responding to nearly 90,000 alerts and notification generated by electronic monitoring devices in the six months reviewed.[26]

Notable instances[edit]

  • English professional footballerJermaine Pennant played a Premier League match in 2005 while wearing an electronic tag; he had received the tag for drunk-driving and driving while disqualified.[27]
  • Lindsay Lohan failed to appear at a mandatory hearing, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. The judge ordered Lohan to wear a SCRAM bracelet, an electronic device that monitors the bloodstream for alcohol and drugs and alerts authorities if prohibited substances are consumed.[28]
  • Roman Polanski, one of the most famous fugitives from American justice in the world, was arrested in Switzerland. The terms of his release included $4.5 million bail, house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet at his chalet, known as Milky Way, in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, after having spent sixty-seven days in a Zurich detention centre.[29]
  • Bernard Madoff, the financier accused in a $50 billion fraud case before trial was ordered under house arrest, with electronic monitoring, and posting $10 million bail against his $7 million Manhattan apartment, and against his wife's homes in Montauk, NY, and Palm Beach, FL.[30]
  • Dr. Dre (Andre Young), American rapper and record producer, was arrested in 1992 for assaulting record producer Damon Thomas and later pleaded guilty to assault on a police officer, eventually serving house arrest and wearing a police monitoring ankle bracelet.[31]


United Kingdom[edit]

Those subject to electronic monitoring may be given curfews as part of Bail conditions, sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in England and Wales (with separate legislation applying in Scotland). Alternatively offenders may be released from a prison on a Home Detention Curfew. Released prisoners under home detention allowed out during curfew hours only for:

  • A wedding or funeral (service only) of a close relative
  • A job interview
  • Acting as a witness in court
  • Emergencies.[32]

Additionally, electronic monitoring may be used for those subject to a curfew given under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (previously known as Control order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005[33])

Since electronically monitored curfews were rolled out throughout England and Wales their use has increased sharply, from 9,000 cases in 1999-2000 to 53,000 in 2004-05. In 2004-05, the Home Office spent £102.3 million on the electronic monitoring of curfews and electronically monitored curfews are considered cheaper than custody.[34]

Typically, offenders are fitted with an electronic tag around their ankle which sends a regular signal to a receiver unit installed in their home. Some systems are connected to a landline in the case where a GSM is not available, whilst most arrangements utilize the mobile phone system to communicate with the monitoring company. If the tag is not functioning or within range of the base station during curfew hours, or if the base is disconnected from the power supply, or the base station is moved then the monitoring company are alerted, who in turn, notify the appropriate authority such as the police, the National Probation Service or the prison the person was released from.[35]

In 2012, the Policy Exchange think tank examined the use of electronic monitoring in England and Wales and made comparisons with technologies and models seen in other jurisdictions, particularly the United States. The report was critical of the Ministry of Justice's model of a fully privatized service - which gave little scope for police or probation services to make use of electronic monitoring. The report, Future of Corrections, also criticized the cost of the service, highlighting an apparent differential between what the UK taxpayer was charged and what could be found in the United States.[36]

Subsequently, there were a number of scandals in relation to electronic monitoring in England and Wales, with a criminal investigation opened by the Serious Fraud Office into the activities of Serco and G4S.[37] As a result of the investigation, Serco agreed to repay £68.5 million to the taxpayer and G4S agreed to repay £109 million.[38] The duopoly were subsequently stripped of their contract, with Capita taking over the contract. In 2017, another criminal investigation saw police make a number of arrests in relation to allegations that at least 32 criminals on tag had paid up to £400 to Capita employees in order to have 'loose' tags fitted, allowing them to remove their tags.[39]

The monitoring of sex offenders via electronic tagging is currently in debate due to certain rights offenders have in England and Wales.[40]

Electronic tagging has begun being used on psychiatric patients, prompting concern from mental health advocates who state that the practice is demeaning.[41]

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

In Australia and New Zealand the existing law permits the use of electronic monitoring as condition for bail, probation or parole. But, according to the 2004 Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia the surveillance must be proportionate to the risk of re-offense. It is also required that, the surveillance of the offender is minimally intrusive for other people who live at the premises. Electronic tagging of a person is part of different electronic monitoring systems in Australia. Correctional agency statistics are collected in Australia for so called "restricted movement orders". In South Australia, a drive-by facility allows the monitorer to drive past a building in which the tagged person is supposed to be.[42] In New Zealand, the electronic tagging of offenders began 1999, when home detention could be imposed instead of imprisonment.[43]


In August 2010, Brazil awarded a GPS Offender Monitoring contract to kick start its monitoring of offenders and management of the Brazilian governments early release programme[44]

South Africa[edit]

Electronic monitoring as a pilot project was started in March 2012, involving 150 offenders, mostly prisoners serving life terms. The project was rolled out to reduce the South Africa's prison population. It consequently would also reduce the taxpayer's burden on correctional facilities.[45] South Africa locks up more people than any other country on the continent.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN .
  2. ^ abRobert S. Gable, Ralph Kirkland Gable, "Remaking the electronic tracking of offenders into a 'persuasive technology'", Journal of Technology in Human Services, 2016, vol. 34, pp. 13-31
  3. ^Robert S. Gable, "The ankle bracelet is history: An informal review of the birth and death of a monitoring technology", The Journal of Offender Monitoring, 2015, vol. 27, pp. 4-8.
  4. ^Evjen, V.H., 1966, Nov.16. Letter to R.Schwitzgebel from Victor H Evjen, Assistant Chief of Probation, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Washington, D.C.
  5. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 96. ISBN .
  6. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 97. ISBN .
  7. ^National Museum of Psychology, Center for the History of Psychology, University of Akron, 73 S. College St, Akron, OH 44325,
  8. ^ Cassidy, J. District judge tests electronic monitor, Albuquerque Journal, 1983, March 18, p. A1
  9. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 97. ISBN .
  10. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN .
  11. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN .
  12. ^Dan Phillips, ed. (1995). Probation and Parole. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN .
  13. ^ ab"Electronic tagging for Alzheimer's". BBC News. 27 September 2002.
  14. ^ abJulian C Hughes and Stephen J Louw, ‘Electronic Tagging of People with Dementia who Wander: Ethical Considerations are Possibly more Important than Practical Benefits' (2002) 325(7369) British Medical Journal 847﹘848 <PubMed>
  15. ^McShane R et al, ‘Getting Lost in Dementia: A Longitudinal Study of a Behavioral Symptom' (1998) 5 International Psychogeriatrics 239﹘245
  16. ^"IOS 6: Understanding Location Services".
  17. ^Katz, Leslie. "GPS-enabled school uniforms hit Japan". Retrieved 14 April 2005.
  18. ^Shakibaei, Bambui. "Real time GPS locations on transport apps". Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  19. ^ abStuart S Yeh (2010). "Cost-benefit analysis of reducing crime through electronic monitoring of parolees and probationers". Journal of Criminal Justice. 1090–1096.
  20. ^"Quaker Council for European Affairs (2010). "Investigating Alternatives to Imprisonment""(PDF).
  21. ^"The Electronic Monitoring of Adult Offenders - National Audit Office (NAO) Report". National Audit Office.
  22. ^ abKathy Padgett, William Bales and Thomas Blomberg (2006) "Under Surveillance: An Empirical Test of the Effectiveness and Consequences of Electronic Monitoring" Criminology and Public Policy, pages 61 - 91 .
  23. ^Mike Nellis, Kristel Beyens & Dan Kaminski (2013). Electronically Monitored Punishment: International and Critical Perspectives. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN .
  24. ^. Penal Affairs Committee. 1988. pp. 13–19.
  25. ^ abRonald Corbett and Gary T. Marx, ‘Critique: No Soul In The New Machine: Technofallacies In The Electronic Monitoring Movement' (1991) Justice Quarterly
  26. ^ ab"Electronic monitoring of Colorado parolees has pitfalls". The Denver Post. 8 June 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  27. ^"'Tagged' footballer Pennant freed". BBC News. 31 March 2005.
  28. ^Molly Carney, Correction through Omniscience: Electronic Monitoring and the Escalation of Crime Control, 40 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol'y 279 (2012)
  29. ^Toobin, Jeffrey. "The Celebrity Defense". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  30. ^Lapidos, Juliet. "How do you qualify for house arrest?". Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  31. ^"Dr. Dre: Biography | Rolling Stone Music". 28 December 2010.
  32. ^"Home Detention Curfew (HDC)". Prisoners' Families Helpline. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  33. ^"Q&A: TPims explained". 4 November 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  34. ^"The Electronic Monitoring of Adult Offenders - National Audit Office (NAO) Report". National Audit Office. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  35. ^"8.6.2 Electronic Monitoring of Offenders". Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  36. ^Roy Geoghegan & Chris Miller (1 October 2012). Future of Corrections: Exploring the Use of Electronic Monitoring. Policy Exchange. ISBN .CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  37. ^"G4S and Serco investigation". Serious Fraud Office. 4 November 2013.
  38. ^Ian Dunt (15 February 2017). "MoJ paid G4S & Serco millions for electronic tagging during fraud investigation".
  39. ^"Criminals 'paid £400' for loose electronic tags". Sky News. 15 February 2017.
  40. ^Electronic tagging of offenders raises rights concerns, The Guardian, 12 August 2010
  41. ^GPS tracking mental health patients - human rights concerns, BMH UK, 22 June 2010
  42. ^Mike Nellis, Kristel Beyens & Dan Kaminski (2013). Electronically Monitored Punishment: International and Critical Perspectives. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN .
  43. ^Mike Nellis, Kristel Beyens & Dan Kaminski (2013). Electronically Monitored Punishment: International and Critical Perspectives. Routledge. p. 82. ISBN .
  44. ^SecureAlert Signs First-Ever GPS Offender Monitoring Contract in Brazil, TMCnet, 23 August 2010
  45. ^ abDept. of Correctional services: Rep of South Africa, South Africa's first ever Electronic of a Remand Detainee, 15/04/2014.

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