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A Radical Idea: Let Offenders Walk Among Us

September 9, 2010

Post by Maureen Fischer,  MaureenInk Communications,  Twitter: @ MaureenFischer,

Note:  Social Media Consultant Maureen Fischer contributed hundreds of hours of her time to Amicus in launching this blog and integrating it with our other social media.  Thanks Maureen! You’ve made “Inside Change” something we can all be proud of. You’re always an Amicus in our eyes!

If you’ve ever watched “The Good Wife” on Tuesday nights at 9:00 CST with Juliana Margulies and Chris Noth, you’ve seen Noth’s ankle device and how it controls everything he does.  Last season, he was released from prison temporarily to live in his Chicago condominium, to be a father, a husband, a human being again. But he doesn’t dare cross the threshold of his condo, or he goes straight back behind bars.

In this month’s Atlantic, Graeme Wood, in his article “Prison Without Walls” writes about a device like Noth wears, suggesting it should be considered for greater use on nonviolent criminals thronging our correctional facilities. The idea: convicted felons released into society with nothing but electronic surveillance—a pager sized tamper-proof device strapped to their ankle and a  larger unit sitting in a holster attached to their belt–would allow nonviolent offenders to contribute to society rather than deplete it.

Foolproof Surveillance

To write the story, Wood wore the device, an ExacuTrack AT made by BI Incorporated, to a family restaurant, around his motel, to bed, into the shower. Barely anyone but his temporary parole officer, who  monitored his every move, noticed.  The device ensures that its wearer adheres to the schedule designed for him. If not, GPS reports the deviation to his parole officer, tracking results in swift apprehension, and he’s on his way back to the Big House.

BI’s ExacuTrack isn’t revolutionary, but widespread use of it for inmates would be. Pilot programs in some areas are testing it for use on nonviolent criminals crowding state correctional facilities. Minnesota currently incarcerates  9,986 in 10 facilities,  requiring a DOC staff of 3,251 to monitor them. The BI ExacuTrack AT, for example, requires just a dozen or so people manning its call center to keep close tabs on 30,000 convicts, who report back to BI clients, corrections officers (not tracked convicts) around the country.

Amicus’ View

Amicus knows well the consequences of long sentences and the difficulty finding jobs upon release.  We support greater exploration of options like BI’s ExacuTrack AT for many reasons:

  • The cost of surveillance would be dollars per day compared to incarceration
  • It has none of the negative effects of time behind bars
  • It returns an inmate to his family, home and potential work
  • The device is tamper-proof and those who deviate from parole are swiftly apprehended and returned to correctional facilities

BI, the main surveillance device maker in the U.S., headquarters in the small town of Anderson, Indiana, and supports 1000+ correctional agencies in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam and Australia. In Anderson, 129 criminals sport BI devices; that’s one for every 500 residents.  At present, 55,000 inmates walk among us living quasi normal lives with a BI anklet device encircling their ankle. If you were to ask these men (or women) if they like the arrangement, you can imagine their response, not to mention the reaction of  loved ones.

By the way, Chris Noth shows us what happens when you step across that forbidden threshold wearing a monitoring device as Season 3 of “The Good Wife” debuts on Sept. 28. Don’t miss it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 10:25 am

    I think it is a much more humane idea, particularly for the family. Children need their parents.

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