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Some considerations relevant to electronic monitoring

Advocates of so-called electronic monitoring for defendants and criminal suspects (and there are many, including, sometimes, criminal defense attorneys) can run through a checklist of reasons why ankle monitors are salutary and beneficial to all involved parties.

For starters, proponents stress, they provide for cheaper monitoring enforcement than is the case when an individual remains locked up in a jail or other detention facility. They reduce the incessant pressures relevant to the overcrowding of incarcerated prisoners. They are more conducive to civil liberty; a common upside cited for electronic monitoring is a bracelet's enabling function allowing an individual "to live at home and move about more freely than they would behind bars."

Two commentators addressing that subject in a recent article for Wired magazine don't buy the accolades. Rather, their in-depth probe of electronic monitoring concludes that the enforcement tool's upside is questionable at best and rife with material downsides.

In fact, assert authors and researchers James Kilgore and Emmett Sanders, an ankle monitor is nothing more than a "high-tech tether" with attached rules that "are far more restrictive than most people realize." Their jointly penned Wired piece questions many bracelet-linked assumptions and strongly stresses that their primary purpose as "digital prisons" raises a host of troubling questions concerning constitutional safeguards, reasonable privacy expectations and additional matters.

One thing is certain concerning the monitors, namely this: their use is definitely on the upswing. The research group Pew Charitable Trusts reports that police agencies increased their use of monitors more than twofold over a recent decade, and that the bracelets' popularity among law enforcers is only increasing.

Kilgore and Sanders say that Americans should be concerned about that. We'll explore their stated concerns in our next blog post.

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