Electronic bracelets: criminal law darling, yet subject to criticism

Some people asked to evaluate the nature and efficacy of electronic monitoring bracelets used to track the movements of criminal suspects and defendants can speak only in superlatives.

In short, they love the devices and see only a universal upside related to them. Ankle bracelets help to keep detention facility populations down by letting people on probation or awaiting trial live unconfined. They keep community populations safer because of the tracking ability afforded by sophisticated and mobile tech applications. They save the general public money (a bracelet is cheaper than a jail cell and related incarceration upkeep costs). And they benefit wearers, too, by impinging far more lightly on their freedoms than is the case with a behind-bars reality.

The offered superlatives concerning ankle monitors are both glowing and many, but they are not universally accepted sentiments.

That is, criticism of electronic monitoring does exist. Moreover, and as indicated in a recent article written by a tag team of criminal law commentators, it can be pointed and severe.

Here’s one stone tossed, for example. Monitoring is fundamentally unfair because it is not economically neutral. Given that monitoring costs must be borne by wearers, the requirement is a far greater exaction for some than for others.

And here’s another barb. For some wearers, the bracelet is a life-long punishment. Doesn’t that violate the Constitution’s 8th Amendment safeguards against “excessive fines imposed [and] cruel and unusual punishments inflicted?”

The proverbial jury seems to still be out on ankle monitoring, although a trend indicating its widespread acceptance and use has been clearly established.

We will be sure to pass along any relevant takeaways to readers concerning any new research and/or study findings that come out concerning this widely used criminal enforcement tool.


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