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Cages Without Bars-Pretrial Electronic Monitoring Across the United States-Sept. 2022

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Cages Without Bars
Pretrial Electronic Monitoring
Across the United States
September 2022

Cages Without Bars | 1

Cages Without Bars:

Pretrial Electronic Monitoring
Across the United States
by Patrice James, James Kilgore, Gabriela Kirk, Grace Mueller, Emmett Sanders,
Sarah Staudt, & LaTanya Jackson Wilson

September 2022

S h r iv e r
C e n t e r on


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Table of Contents

Authors 1

Methodology 15

Acknowledgements 3

Comparing Nine Electronic Monitoring
Programs Across the Country 17

Executive Summary 4
Introduction 8
Background 10
Race and Electronic Monitoring 13

Discussion 33
Conclusion 42
Endnotes 43


Patrice James
Executive Director,
Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative
Patrice James has spent her career
tackling the inequities within the
criminal legal system and more recently
the child welfare system. Currently, she
is the Founding Executive Director of
the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative, a
statewide Black-centered organization
dedicated to building power through
organizing and systems change to
secure equity and justice for Black
Illinoisans. Prior to joining IBAI, she
was Director of Community Justice at
the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, a
founding attorney of Still She Rises,
Tulsa, where she provided holistic legal
representation primarily to low-income
women of color, engaged in community
building, and advocated for shifting
the narrative of women involved in the
criminal justice system “from broken

Cages Without Bars | 1

women to broken systems,” and a
public defender at the Bronx Defenders
Office. Patrice is also the co-founder
and board member of the Black Public
Defender Association.

James Kilgore
Media Fellow at MediaJustice, Director
of Challenging E-Carceration Project
James Kilgore has written widely on
issues of mass incarceration, with
a particular focus on electronic
monitoring. He spent a year on an
electronic monitor as a condition of his
parole. In 2017, he received an Open
Society Foundation fellowship to
establish the Challenging E-Carceration
project at MediaJustice. He is the author
of the National Book Award-winning
Understanding Mass Incarceration and
Understanding E-Carceration. He lives
in Urbana, Illinois, where he is also the
Director of Advocacy and Outreach for
the FirstFollowers Reentry Program.

Gabriela Kirk
Faculty Fellow, Syracuse University
Gabriela Kirk is a faculty fellow
in sociology and a senior research
associate in the Center for Policy
Research at Syracuse University. Her
research examines the role of electronic
monitoring in local criminal justice
reform efforts and the connections
between private industry, policy
processes, and the criminal legal system.
In her former position with Chicago
Appleseed, she focused mainly on
examining electronic monitoring in
Cook County and Illinois.

Grace Mueller
Research Associate, Chicago Appleseed
Center for Fair Courts
Grace graduated with her master’s
degree from the University of
Edinburgh in November 2019,
where she studied International
Development with a focus on social
anthropology, political science, and
social entrepreneurship. She is a 2020
Rotary Global Grants Scholar, and
her experience spans research with the
Cambridge Institute of Sustainability
Leadership, Asian Development
Bank, University of Edinburgh, and
University of Texas at Austin. Grace’s
research interests include economic
equality and understanding pathways
to socioeconomic mobility for
disadvantaged communities. She is
thrilled to expand upon these interests
through furthering research and project
management with Chicago Appleseed.

Emmett Sanders
Researcher, Challenging E-Carceration
Emmett Sanders is a formerly
incarcerated researcher and writer
who spent three months on electronic
monitoring following more than 22
years in Illinois prisons. He has been a
Project Researcher on the Challenging

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E-Carceration project since 2017 and
has co-authored several articles in
publications such as Truthout, Inquest,
and Wired tracking the proliferation
and impact of electronic monitoring.
He is a voting rights advocate and
the author of Full Human Beings:
An Argument for Incarcerated Voter
Enfranchisement, and has been featured
in publications like In These Times
for his voting rights advocacy. He is
currently based in South Texas where
he is receiving his MPA from the
University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Sarah Staudt
Senior Policy Analyst and Staff Attorney,
Chicago Appleseed Center
for Fair Courts
Sarah Staudt has been the Senior
Policy Analyst and Staff Attorney for
Criminal Justice matters at Chicago
Appleseed Center for Fair Courts
since 2018. Sarah graduated from the
University of Chicago Law School
in 2013. Before coming to work with
Chicago Appleseed, Sarah was an Equal
Justice Works Fellow and criminal
defense attorney with the Lawndale
Christian Legal Center (LCLC) where
she represented juveniles and young
adults in the Cook County Criminal
Courts. During her time at Chicago
Appleseed, Sarah has focused on pretrial
court reform issues through work with
the Coalition to End Money Bond, and
she was instrumental in the drafting

and advocating for the groundbreaking
Pretrial Fairness Act, which passed in
2021. The Pretrial Fairness Act makes
Illinois the first state to fully end
money bail and restructure the pretrial
justice system. Sarah also leads Chicago
Appleseed’s other criminal legal reform
work, including projects focused on
electronic detention, abolishing overly
punitive sentencing systems, and
promoting court system efficiency,
fairness, and accountability.

LaTanya Jackson Wilson
Vice President of Advocacy,
Shriver Center on Poverty Law
LaTanya Jackson Wilson has over 25
years’ experience centered on advocacy
for equal justice. Most recently, she
served as Director of Advocacy at Legal
Aid of Western Ohio, where she oversaw
a shift to focus advocacy on racial justice
and equity and build a more inclusive
and diverse organizational culture.
Previously, she has worked as a public
defender, an attorney at UAW Legal
Services, and in private practice.
As Vice President of Advocacy,
LaTanya manages a cross-disciplinary
team of experts and oversees the
Shriver Center’s work to integrate
policy advocacy, community-centered
organizing, and legal strategy in pursuit
of systemic change. She is a 1995
graduate of the Ohio State University
Moritz College of Law, and a 1992
graduate of Morris College.


This report would not have been possible without the cooperation of many people
administering or affected by pretrial electronic monitoring programs. The authors are
grateful to the local administrators and other staff at the Safety and Justice Challenge
network sites who participated in interviews and provided documents and other data.
We appreciate the judges, prosecutors, and public defenders who offered their perspectives
on these programs. And we are grateful to the individuals directly impacted who spoke to
us about their experiences on EM. Our goal in this research was to better understand how
EM programs work and the impact that EM has on people’s lives. Working together,
we can reimagine criminal justice systems and ensure equity for all.

This report was created with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, which seeks to reduce
over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Cages Without Bars | 3

Executive Summary

From 2005 to 2015, the number of
people on electronic monitoring
(EM) in the U.S. more than doubled,
surpassing 120,000. The North
American market for EM is projected
to grow from $850 million in 2019 to
$1.2 billion in 2023. This growth has
been particularly remarkable in the
pretrial sector. Yet there is a lack of
data-driven evidence to determine
whether pretrial EM is an effective
tool in reducing rates of re-arrest or
increasing appearance rates.

In fact, our research suggests that
pretrial defendants on electronic
monitors are often at risk of greater
involvement in the criminal legal system.

Baltimore City (MD)

This report responds to the gap in
critical research on pretrial EM.
We analyzed features of pretrial EM
across nine jurisdictions designated as
sites for implementation or innovation
as part of the MacArthur Foundation’s
Safety and Justice Challenge. These
jurisdictions are:

Orleans Parish
• (LA) (New Orleans)

Bernalillo County


Cook County (IL) (Chicago)
City & County
• of San Francisco


Franklin County (OH)


Los Angeles County (CA)
Multnomah County


The State of Connecticut


Cages Without Bars | 4

The major findings of our research were:
Pretrial electronic monitoring
causes immense harm. People on
EM monitors provided gut-wrenching
accounts of the ways their health,
employment, and families were hurt
by EM. Like mass incarceration, the
underlying logic of punishment and
fear that informs EM dooms it to failure.
Although the use of EM continues
to expand, these devices offer no real
avenue of progress for individuals or
the criminal legal system. Therefore, we
recommend that everyone involved in
an electronic monitoring program, from
program administrators to activists,
pursue a multifaceted agenda geared
towards the elimination of EM.
Great differences exist in program
structure and size. We found
inconsistencies between EM programs
in different cities. Jurisdictions used
EM in a variety of ways, which roughly
fell into four categories:
1. House arrest — mandating
that a monitored person stay in
their home continuously unless
they received permission for
specified “movement.”
2. Curfew — limiting movement
to specified hours of the day.
3. Geographic exclusion zones —
barring the monitored person from
certain areas (i.e., a victim’s home).
4. Pure movement tracking —
tracking a person’s movement
without restrictions.

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All programs threatened monitored
people with incarceration if
administrators decided the monitored
person had violated rules. Among
jurisdictions that used GPS technology,
all used a hybrid version of movement
restrictions and location tracking.
Criteria for admission to electronic
monitoring programs are unclear.
None of the interviewed jurisdictions
had clear standards and practices for
EM admissions. Judges often use their
own metrics, though some use an
actuarial risk assessment to inform their
pretrial decisions. While most pretrial
decisions about EM rely heavily on the
charges, level of offense, and criminal
history of the accused person, defense
attorneys in Cook County, Franklin
County, and Los Angeles County
shared that on occasion they request
electronic monitoring to get their
clients released from jail.
Program administration lacks
transparency. Little data exist about
many aspects of electronic monitoring
programs. For most of the jurisdictions,
we were unable to get racial breakdowns
for the people on EM, nor were we
able to obtain information on how
many people were sent back to jail for
violations of rules. We learned that
regular assessments or evaluations of
EM programs were not conducted
in the jurisdictions we interviewed.
Increasing reliance on risk assessments
in these programs adds to the lack
of transparency. This is particularly
concerning given that young, Black
men may be deemed “risky” or unable
to pay cash bail at a disproportionately

higher rate. This exacerbates existing
inequalities of race and class and paves
the way for electronic monitoring to
increase rates of pretrial supervision
rather than decrease incarceration.
In addition to the lack of racial data,
the entanglement between private EM
companies and local criminal justice
system agencies can make it difficult to
determine how pretrial EM programs
are being implemented. Whereas some
jurisdictions rely on private companies
to provide rental equipment, other
jurisdictions give license to private
companies to completely run the
programs and report violations to
the court. People working within
jurisdictions that rely on private
companies were not privy to the size
of their programs due to the lack of
transparency from their private partners.
In order for a person accused of a crime
to access EM, their lawyer and family
had to secure services directly from an
EM provider.
Program rules limit people’s
freedom. Once on an electronic
monitoring device, people accused
of crimes are subject to conditions
and strict rules. Restrictions on
movement are the most serious liberty
infringement of electronic monitoring.
People on EM must seek permission
from a supervising authority to leave
home for a specific purpose or at a
specific time. The movement approval
process has proved frustrating because
of the arbitrary and sometimes cruel
nature of denials and the fact that
attorneys are often not informed when
their clients are reincarcerated for an

EM violation. Even after movement
approval, many jurisdictions require
additional verification of the person’s
whereabouts. Notably, movement
was often only approved when it was
deemed necessary for a person’s life, but
leisure activities like exercising or sitting
outside were not considered necessary.
Under both scenarios, there is no
freedom to simply live one’s life in the
way one wants.
Properly maintaining the device.
EM devices require multiple hours of
charging each day, and as GPS bands are
physically attached to a person on EM,
it is assumed that people on EM have
access to stable housing and reliable
electricity. Moreover, EM devices often
proved faulty, showing that people
were outside their homes or were
trying to tamper with their devices
when they were not. In Cook
County, technical glitches can lead to
incarceration, and defense attorneys
complained that their clients had to
prove the monitor malfunctioned.

Cages Without Bars | 6

Payment of fees. In many
jurisdictions, people on the monitor
must also shoulder the cost of EM
services. Some jurisdictions require
people to pay at least part of the costs
associated with monitoring. These
costs typically range from $5 to $25
per day but can be as high as $40 per
day. The profit-driven incentives of
many EM companies have allowed some
to threaten people with jail time for
unpaid fees.
Additional requirements. Additionally,
some jurisdictions imposed weekly or
biweekly check-ins with a pretrial
officer as well as drug testing for
some individuals.
Monitored people are suffering.
People throughout the jurisdictions
surveyed highlighted EM’s role in
making them feel humiliated and
debilitated. As one interviewee noted,
“[I]f there’s anything going on in your
life, EM makes it worse.” From finding
and keeping housing to accessing

and maintaining employment, the
visibility of EM devices and often public
interactions with police frequently put
community members on notice of a
defendant’s EM status. Further, people
on EM who are unstably housed or
unhoused must rely on places like fast
food restaurants and homeless shelters
to provide reliable electricity
to charge their devices. Interviewees
also reported restrictions on movement
can lead to their inability to get
necessary medication or healthcare
for themselves and families, which
leads to financial and emotional strain.
These issues, in addition to the isolating
impact caused by EM, affect people’s
mental and physical health, which
has been exacerbated by the
COVID-19 pandemic.


People experience an
intense level of stress
attempting to maintain
their lives under the
duress of electronic

Electronic monitoring should
be eliminated as a policy tool in
pretrial settings. Pretrial electronic
monitoring programs lack transparency
and accountability, are punitive in
nature, and are unsupported by any
research establishing a pattern of
successful outcomes. Money spent
on electronic monitoring could be
much more effectively used to support
programs that promote healing and
access to opportunity, rather than
a technology that locks people in their
homes. Where possible we recommend
that advocates, decision-makers,
and judicial actors abandon
electronic monitoring.
We recognize, however, that
immediate elimination of electronic
monitoring may not be possible
in all jurisdictions. Many programs
have been entrenched for many years,
earn profits for powerful people, and
in poorly resourced communities may
represent the only option available apart
from incarceration in a jail cell.
In such situations, we support
policies of harm reduction that
reduce the punitive character
of EM and provide pretrial
defendants ample freedom to
work, seek medical care, join in
family and community activities,
and take part in recreation. To that
end, we recommend pushing for the
following reforms in the absence of
abolishing EM:

Cages Without Bars | 7

1. EM programs should be tested
rigorously and used sparingly to
ensure their effectiveness.
2. EM programs should allow
“movement” as a default and not
operate as house arrest programs.
3. EM programs should not require
onerous verification when GPS
technology may already serve as
ample verification.
4. EM programs should not pass fees
onto the accused.
5. EM programs should ensure
people receive credit for time
served on the monitor.
6. EM programs should be overseen
and administered by government
authorities, not private companies.
7. EM programs should not place
someone on a monitor or
reincarcerate people accused of
violating rules without due process.
8. EM programs should prioritize
data privacy and safety for
people on the monitor and
restrict commodification of
data without consent.
9. EM programs should commit to a
robust system of transparent data
collection in their operations, with
a special focus on the racial impact
of EM. To this end, community
stakeholders and impacted
individuals should be mobilized to
hold EM programs accountable.

10. EM programs should have clear
criteria that incorporate due
process to determine who is placed
on EM, for how long, and under
what conditions.
Furthermore, we recommend that in
the courtroom, defense lawyers

• seek to reduce EM usage by
zealously advocating on their
clients’ behalf, and

• use legal precedent to ensure search
warrants are utilized before law
enforcement pulls GPS data from a
pretrial monitored individual.
Affirmative litigation is also a promising
avenue for reducing the harm caused by
EM programs.
Finally, legislative advocacy is a tool that
can ensure EM practices comport with
set standards and practices or lead to
ending EM programs altogether.


Across the United States each year,
hundreds of thousands of people
accused but not yet convicted of
crimes are required by the courts to
participate in electronic monitoring
(EM) programs. These people are fitted
with a locked, tightened ankle shackle,
which often tracks every move they
make. Usually, they are then confined
to their homes unless they have specific
permission to leave. If they remove the
band, or break the rules of the program,
they risk being taken to jail. All of
this happens before they have been
convicted of the crime of which they
were accused.

Cages Without Bars | 8

Pretrial EM1 programs represent a
fast-growing type of incarceration that
imposes significant harm and burdens
on people who are subject to it. A 2015
Pew Charitable Trust report noted that
the number of people being tracked
by electronic monitoring technology
more than doubled between 2005 and
2015, to a total of over 120,000 people.2
In 2018, Michele Alexander called
electronic monitoring “the newest
Jim Crow.”3 But, despite some media
attention, pretrial electronic monitoring
programs have exploded in size, largely
without examination by academic and

policy researchers or by the system
actors who use this technology.
This report responds to the gap in
critical research on the use of pretrial
EM by exploring how EM is used across
select jurisdictions in the U.S. To better
understand the scope of pretrial EM,
we gathered information from 9 of the
51 jurisdictions designated as sites for
implementation of the pretrial justice
reform program promoted by the Safety
and Justice Challenge. The Safety and
Justice Challenge examines the over-use
of jails in the pretrial

system and the racial disparities in
the system as it currently exists.4 This
report analyzes the key features of these
EM programs and how those features
differ by jurisdiction. We include
insights from people who are subject
to pretrial electronic monitoring, and
from program administrators, judges,
prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
We explore how people get on EM and
the costs of EM for individuals. We
compare EM program administration
in the different jurisdictions surveyed
and discuss systems actors’ perceptions
and opinions of EM. Using interview
data with individuals who have
participated in an EM program in the
U.S., we examine the impacts of EM on
people’s (1) ability to find and maintain
employment, (2) physical and mental
health, and (3) family relationships.
We found an alarming gap between
the ways these programs operate in
different cities. The term “electronic
monitoring” covers a huge variety of
programs. People accused of crimes face
vastly different rules on these programs
depending on where they are located.
We were also struck by a lack of
clarity from most jurisdictions as to
the purpose, efficacy, and future of
electronic monitoring programs. On
paper and in the law, most electronic
monitoring programs are designated as
a condition of release. However, these
so-called conditions of release and the
ways that system actors perceived and
ran the programs suggested that, in

Cages Without Bars | 9

practice, electronic monitoring acts as
another form of incarceration, not an
alternative. While there is considerable
difference in how EM programs operate,
all have one thing in common — they
are underpinned by a punitive ideology.
This punitive ideology is pervasive
throughout the criminal legal system,
which over the last few decades
has led reformers to introduce new
opportunities to reduce the harm
caused by the system. Since EM keeps
people from being confined inside
of prison cages, some reformers view
EM as a harm reduction tool. The
often-prevailing narrative holds that
“EM is better than jail.” Based on the
research we conducted, although EM
is a tool that can be used to get people
out of prisons and jails, as currently
administered it creates harm in much
the same fashion as prisons and jails.


changed. The harms caused by EM
to people and communities are so
great that EM cannot be “reformed”
or adapted into a practice that is not
still no longer fundamentally carceral,
punitive, and harmful. The goal must
be to end its use.
Our research shows that EM is deeply
embedded in many jurisdictions’
pretrial systems, and it is not realistic
to believe that EM can be abolished
overnight. In response, this report
recommends strategies for reducing
the harm caused by EM in a pretrial
setting. We urge EM system actors,
including jurisdictions, third-party
vendors, and court systems, to consider
these recommendations as steps on the
path towards eliminating the use of
pretrial electronic monitoring entirely,
rather than as long-term solutions in
and of themselves.

In practice, electronic monitoring acts as
another form of incarceration, not
an alternative.

Although criminal legal system
reformers and many prison abolitionists
recognize harm reduction as a necessary
tool for change, currently the primary
outcome of EM is not harm reduction
but creating new forms of punishment.
EM has been used in the United States
for over 40 years, and the technology
is forever changing and modernizing
— but the harm EM causes has not


The History of
Pretrial Electronic
In this section, we provide a brief
history of electronic monitoring in
the United States, the technology,
and the of the privatization of the
technology and devices.
Electronic monitoring was first
developed in the early 1960s by two
Harvard graduate students for use in
the juvenile justice system. Originally,
EM was intended to act as “positive

Cages Without Bars | 10

reinforcement” to incentivize people to
modify their behavior. Administrators
could use information from the
monitor to reward those who exhibited
positive changes in their actions.5 Over
time, the policy objectives of pretrial
electronic monitoring shifted away
from rewarding compliance in favor
of punishing missteps and preventing
future unlawful activity. Now, the
stated main purposes for EM are to
serve as an alternative to detention, to
prevent recidivism, and to encourage
reappearance in court, all of which
are balanced against an interest in
preserving public safety.6

Harvard graduate students developed
EM according to the principles of
positive reinforcement while using
military equipment to develop
technology, which involved radio
communication between devices to
track location.7 In the early 1980s,
EM moved into the sphere of criminal
courts. In 1983, Albuquerque Judge
Jack Love, who was in search of a way
to monitor accused people at home
rather than in an overcrowded jail,
fitted four people with radio frequency
devices.8 Judge Love claims he was
inspired by a similar device he saw in
a Spiderman comic. In 1984, the first

formal pilot EM program was created
in Palm Beach County, Florida, where
it was used to monitor people convicted
of misdemeanors. Before long, similar
programs for people convicted of crimes
began appearing across the country.
In 1989, Cook County — one of the
largest pretrial electronic monitoring
sites in the nation — began its EM
program for accused people yet to
face trial. Conceived as an emergency
measure to ease overcrowding, after
a federal judge had begun fining the
county thousands of dollars a day for
violating a federal court order to reduce
the jail population, the program started
with 123 monitored people. Within the
year, it had grown to over 400.
Despite the long history of the use of
pretrial EM, there is a lack of datadriven evidence to demonstrate that
pretrial EM ensures compliance with
court orders and increases public safety.
A recent meta-analysis that looked at 17
empirical studies of post-conviction EM
found that it does not have a statistically
significant impact on reducing the rate
of re-arrest while people are subject
to the program.9 There is almost no
current research on the specific impact
of EM when used pretrial. One study
of location monitoring in New Jersey
found no difference in appearance
rates for individuals monitored in
comparison to those who were not.10
Despite this lack of evidence, interest
in bail reform has driven a new wave
of efforts to decrease pretrial jail
populations, and with it, an increase
in the use of electronic monitoring.
During the COVID-19 pandemic
and Breanna Taylor and George Floyd

Cages Without Bars | 11

uprisings, when pressure to decarcerate
jails was acute, EM programs in places
like Cook County, Illinois, Harris
County, Texas, and San Francisco
ballooned in size and remained large
even after initial COVID-19 outbreaks
at jails were controlled. Pretrial EM
continues to expand despite the lack
of clear evidence of any success in
achieving its stated goals.

Types of
Nearly all the jurisdictions reviewed
for this report used at least one of three
types of electronic monitoring devices:
(1) GPS, (2) radio frequency, and/or (3)
Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol
Monitoring devices (SCRAM). GPS
devices use satellites to triangulate and
transmit location information at set
intervals and can also track and store
location information for download
at a later time. Ultimately, most of
this user data ends up on remote
computing servers where the person
on the monitor has no control over
how it is used. In recent years, a market
for this data has emerged, creating a
source of profitability for EM providers
and big tech companies like Amazon
that provide cloud computing services.
Radio Frequency (RF) devices are often
used for curfew monitoring and house
arrest. An RF home monitoring unit
detects the monitor within a specific
range and sends confirmation back to
a monitoring center. SCRAM devices
analyze perspiration for alcohol content
and send a report every hour. SCRAM
monitors can also include an RF or GPS

location monitor to monitor alcohol
intake and location simultaneously.11
In the jurisdictions that we interviewed,
SCRAM devices were used exclusively
for people charged with driving under
the influence and other charges related
to alcohol consumption.
The type of device used is frequently
based on the charges facing people
being monitored. Individuals charged
with domestic violence are much more
likely to be GPS monitored. Among
the jurisdictions we spoke with, many
individuals on EM were people accused
of domestic violence. About half of
these jurisdictions used exclusion
zones — a method of programming
with addresses that the person accused
of a crime is not supposed to be near.
Typically, these are places like schools,
parks, or a specific person’s home or
place of employment. Four of the nine
jurisdictions mentioned that exclusion
zones were most often utilized in
domestic violence cases or in cases
where there was a specific location
for the crime.
In 2015, the Pew Charitable Trusts
found that GPS technology was
becoming more common among
electronic monitoring use broadly.12
The Pew study, which looked at EM at
all stages of the criminal legal system,
found that use of location tracking
technologies rose 140% between 2005
and 2015. The increased use of GPS
devices drove much of this growth;
manufacturers reported about 88,000
GPS devices in use, which is 30 times
the number in use a decade earlier.

Private Company

these private companies exist or
the exact market share of companies
within the industry.

Since the beginning of pretrial
electronic monitoring, private
corporations have been closely
involved in program implementation.
MediaJustice’s Challenging
E-Carceration Project regularly tracks
these programs and has found over
50 electronic monitoring companies
operating in over 21 states.13 BI
Incorporated, the nation’s largest
electronic monitoring company, is a
subsidiary of GEO Group, one of the
world’s largest operators of private
prison and mental health facilities. EM
has become one of BI’s major sources
of profit. Due to the vast number of
contracts for electronic monitoring
services and other forms of EM at
the federal, state, and local level, it is
difficult to determine just how many of

Companies’ reluctance to make their
records public further contributes to
the lack of data. It is clear, however, that
the industry is growing. In addition
to BI, a 2018 report by the Center
for Media Justice identified Satellite
Tracking of People (STOP), Sentinel
Offender Services, and Attenti as some
of the largest private companies in
the e-carceration industry. These four
companies alone brought in nearly
$700 million in annual revenues and
had contracts in 29 different states
as of 2018. Market analysis shows
that the North American market for
EM — which is dominated by the
United States — is forecast to grow at
a compound annual rate of 9%, from
$850 million in 2019 to close to $1.2

billion in 2023.14 This growth will
likely lead to massive profits for the
four noted industry giants, along with
other major companies like Sierra
Wireless, SCRAM Systems, Track
Group, and SuperCom. This could also
give rise to an increase in revenue for
smaller regional providers like Tarheel
Monitoring (North Carolina), ETOH
(New Orleans), Eastern Missouri
Alternative Sentencing (EMASS)
(Missouri), Providence Community
Corrections (Tennessee), Correction
Center of Northwest Ohio (Ohio),
and many others. Moreover, in recent
years, especially during the pandemic,
traditional ankle monitors have been
replaced by cellphone tracking apps
such as BI SmartLINK, Promise, and
Guardian. The companies used by the
jurisdictions we surveyed are listed in
the table below.

Private Companies Used by Jurisdictions Surveyed

Private Company

Bernalillo County, NM (Albuquerque)

BI, Inc.

Cook County, IL (Chicago)

Track Group and Protocol, Inc (a division of BI, Inc).

Orleans County, LA (New Orleans)

A2I, Assured Supervision Accountability Program (ASAP),
and ETOH Monitoring, LLC

Baltimore City, MD

ASAP and Alert

State of Connecticut

Sentinel Offender Monitoring Services

Multnomah County, OR (Portland)


Franklin County, OH (Columbus)

BI, Inc.

Los Angeles County, CA (Los Angeles)

Securus Monitoring Solutions

San Francisco, CA

Sentinel Services

Cages Without Bars | 12

Race and Electronic

It is impossible to effectively discuss
any part of the American criminal
legal system without engaging with
its history, which is steeped in racial
oppression. EM came into use at the
height of the “war on drugs,” a racially
motivated set of policies that vastly
disproportionately affected Black and
other people of color.15 In the one
jurisdiction that was able to provide
data on the race of people subject to
EM (Cook County), we found that
EM had the same disproportionate
racial demographics as the pretrial jail
population; 74% of people on EM in
Cook County are Black, approximately

Cages Without Bars | 13



74% of people on EM in
Cook County are Black

23% of residents in
Cook County are Black

the same proportion as the jail
population. By contrast, Black people
make up only 23% of Cook County’s
total population.16
David Mauroff of the San Francisco
Pretrial Diversion Project notes that
while San Francisco’s population is
about 4% African American, the jail
population is “45, 50, sometimes
up to 60%” African American, and
Mauroff indicates that “they’re the same
individuals getting hit with EM.” He
went on to share that “we’re fortunate
that San Francisco received funding
from MacArthur Safety and Justice
Challenge. So, we have a real clear focus
on reducing racial disparity in our jails.
And the EM is a part of that.”
A major challenge in electronic
monitoring research is the lack of
information on the application and
utilization in the criminal legal system
at all, let alone information about
disproportionate racial impact. The
local jurisdictions we spoke with had
little access to data about their own
programs and who exactly was on
them. Moreover, local system actors
have not evaluated the impact of these
programs in a systematic way. While
we had hoped to shed light on possible
disparities in the use of electronic
monitoring, the lack of available data
makes doing so extremely challenging.
Nonetheless, there are several reasons to
believe that electronic monitoring is
not used evenly across pretrial
programs and that racial disparities
exist in its application.
First, reliance on risk assessment tools
has increased in recent years. Although

Cages Without Bars | 14

risk assessments may seem objective,
and thus lacking racial bias, they often
exacerbate existing social and racial
inequities.17 This finding has led to
concerns that EM is not utilized to
decrease incarceration, but rather to
augment pretrial supervision.18 This
may lead to its disproportionate use
among individuals who cannot afford
cash bail or who are deemed “risky” by
these algorithms — disproportionately
young, Black men. Given the
extensive literature on racial bias and
discrimination in the criminal legal
system, even in the absence of data
there is no reason to conclude that EM
represents an island of racial equity in a
sea of inequity.
Second, we found that individual
program officers and supervising
agents in the jurisdictions surveyed
had considerable discretion in
approving movement and responding
to violations. Conversations with
defense attorneys suggested that not
all accused individuals receive the
same treatment while on electronic
monitoring. Defense attorneys believed
that race factored into which conditions
were placed on their clients, with their
Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x
clients being disproportionately
negatively impacted. Black, Indigenous,
and Latino/a/x clients, especially the
younger clients, were given more
conditions and less movement than
white clients. This is another likely (but
so far underexplored) area that may
reveal racial disparities in EM.
Lastly, it is important to note that
the race and class dynamics of EM
are complex. While EM is generally a

punitive measure used against poor
people of color, in selected instances
it becomes an actual tool of privilege
that keeps white and wealthy people
from having to serve jail time. In some
jurisdictions, electronic monitoring
may be uniquely available to the wealthy
because of cost-prohibitive fees. Wealth
in America, is, of course, correlated
with race, and privileging the wealthy
will often have disproportionate racial
impacts. High-profile cases of Michael
Cohen, Jeffrey Epstein, and Paul
Manafort provide examples of white,
wealthy people who were given access to
EM and avoided jail or prison time.19 In
one case cited by Mr. Epstein’s lawyers,
a judge referred to such arrangements as
providing “an opportunity for release
that poorer people could never obtain.”
EM fees, as well as the practice of
requiring high money bonds in addition
to electronic monitoring, risk stranding
more poor people in jail while the rich
more frequently receive release.
However, it is also likely that electronic
monitoring is used more frequently for
accused people of color in the pretrial
phase. Reliance on risk assessment tools
has increased in recent years. Although
risk assessments may seem objective,
and thus lacking racial bias, they often
exacerbate existing social and racial
inequalities. This finding has led to
concerns that EM is not utilized to
decrease incarceration, but rather to
augment pretrial supervision.20 This
may lead to its disproportionate use
among individuals who cannot afford
cash bail or who are deemed “risky” by
these algorithms — disproportionately
young, Black men.


Our goal was to gather information on
pretrial electronic monitoring from a
selection of jurisdictions designated as
network sites for the Safety and Justice
Challenge. We narrowed our scope by
focusing primarily on sites where the
networks of lead organizations for this
report, the Shriver Center on Poverty
Law’s Legal Impact Network and
the Appleseed Network, have a local
presence and individuals willing to be
interviewed for the report.
Among those sites, we identified 20
jurisdictions with pretrial EM programs.

Cages Without Bars | 15

We then did initial outreach to relevant
local administrators to verify that the
targeted jurisdictions had existing
EM programs and to inquire whether
they would be willing to participate in
our study. We conducted preliminary
interviews with 18 jurisdictions.
These initial conversations occurred
in September through November
2020. After these screening interviews,
we narrowed our focus to nine
jurisdictions: Baltimore City (MD),
Bernalillo County (NM), Cook County
(IL), Orleans Parrish (LA), City &

County of San Francisco (CA), Franklin
County (OH), Los Angeles County
(CA), Multnomah County (OR), and
the State of Connecticut.
The overall intention was to capture a
variety of perspectives from individuals
involved in EM within each jurisdiction.
First, we aimed to collect contracts,
program documents, and data on the
individuals placed on pretrial EM.

Second, we contacted individuals
in each of the following personnel
categories for interviews:

• an administrator,
• a lawyer who prosecuted cases
where individuals were put on EM,

• a lawyer who defended clients who
were placed on EM, and

• a judge.
We also planned focus groups and
individual interviews with people who
had spent time on pretrial electronic
monitoring. Through this method, we
hoped to gain information that has
been largely missing from electronic
monitoring research to date, including
racial breakdowns of EM populations,
records of violations and reincarceration,
data on the cost of EM programs, the
frequency of technical malfunctions
in the devices, details of how these
programs are administered, and what
impact the devices had on the lives of
the monitored individuals.
The COVID-19 pandemic created
considerable challenges in contacting
people and setting up interviews. Travel
restrictions made site visits impossible.
Many offices were closed or open for
limited hours, making phone numbers
unreliable. In other instances, the
pandemic worked in our favor because
some system actors were more available
working from home and travel was
limited. We made considerable effort
to reach system actors in each of the
categories, exhausting available contacts
and following up at least three times if
we did not receive a response.

Cages Without Bars | 16

In the end, we spoke to 35 system actors
across nine jurisdictions, with a high
of eight from Bernalillo County and
a low of two from New Orleans. We
developed interview questionnaires
based on our collective knowledge of
EM programs and the criminal legal
system. We conducted these interviews
from January to May 2021. We
conducted most interviews with an
assurance of personal anonymity, and
as such have not identified the speakers
of most quotes in this report. Where
speakers were willing to have their
names disclosed, we have done so. After
submitting Freedom of Information
Act requests to each jurisdiction, we
received program documents from five
of the nine jurisdictions and data on
monitored people from three.
The pandemic presented challenges
for contacting individuals who had
been on electronic monitoring. For
this part of the research, we contacted
19 individuals from 15 jurisdictions
that were part of the Safety and Justice
network via phone and email. We chose
the jurisdictions and individuals by
tracking contacts we had from previous
connections on EM issues. In the end,
we received 11 replies and ultimately
completed interviews with individuals
from six jurisdictions via Zoom and
telephone. Several factors contributed
to the low response rate. People placed
on EM, largely from economically
impacted, predominantly Black and
Brown communities, had experienced
the COVID-19 pandemic far differently
than other groups. They were more
likely to experience instability in living
conditions, internet access, income, and

healthcare, all of which impaired our
ability to connect with them directly.
As a result, we pivoted to also reach out
to individuals and organizations with
direct ties to the impacted community
who speak to the impact of pretrial
EM on the people they worked with as
well as on the services they sought to
provide them. Ultimately, we completed
interviews with 12 of these individuals.
In addition to those who had
experienced EM, we also interviewed
people who were active in community
bail funds, programs serving insecurely
housed people, and those who
provided legal aid or pretrial services to
individuals on pretrial EM.
All researchers conducted interviews
over the phone or via Zoom, with
one respondent replying over email.
Gabriela Kirk conducted interviews
for the Appleseed sites. Patrice James
conducted interviews for the Shriver
Center sites. Emmett Sanders and
James Kilgore conducted interviews
of impacted individuals and advocates.
Our general method was to audio
or video record and transcribe the
interviews after receiving consent
from the respondents. Interviews
ranged from 25 minutes to 1 hour,
with an average of 45 minutes. We
took handwritten notes when the
respondent preferred not to be recorded.
We utilized the program documents
to confirm and expand on interview
responses and to gather additional
specific information about program
policies and jurisdictions’ contracts with
private entities.

Comparing Nine Electronic
Monitoring Programs Across
the Country

The nine jurisdictions where
our research focused have certain
commonalities: all are large, urban
court systems. All had over a dozen
courtrooms in their criminal courts,
and most had some form of pretrial
services program. But the differences
between electronic monitoring
programs far outstripped any
similarities between the court systems.

Cages Without Bars | 17

Differences in
Program Structure
and Size
Within and between different
jurisdictions, the basic way that
electronic monitoring technology
was used varied substantially. Some
jurisdictions had multiple basic EM
rules for different groups of monitored
people; others had universal blanket
rules for every person. Overall, four
categories of use emerged:

1. Home Confinement/House
Arrest — uses the EM band,
whether RF or GPS, to ensure
that a monitored person is in their
home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,
unless they have permission for
“movement” — approval to leave
their home for a specified reason —
to a place they must go straight to
and return straight from.
2. Curfew — uses the EM band,
whether RF or GPS, to monitor a
curfew for the accused person, so

that they must be inside their
home during the night and can
move freely during some portion
of the day.
3. Geographic Exclusion Zones
— bars a monitored person from
certain geographic areas (for
example, near a victim’s home)
and uses GPS to monitor
compliance. Does not otherwise
restrict movement.

These modes were often used in
combination with one another. No
jurisdiction reported using a house
arrest program that provided absolutely
no ability to have approved movement;
similarly, only a few jurisdictions
reported using GPS monitoring but
making absolutely no restrictions
on a person’s location. In this way,
neither “house arrest” nor “electronic
monitoring” is a truly accurate
description of most of the programs

we surveyed — all are a hybrid between
the two concepts and involve both
movement restriction and location
tracking. All also have some mechanism
for using carceral punishment for
program rule violations. In other words,
in all of the programs we studied, jail
was always a possibility if program
administrators decided that an accused
person had broken the rules.

4. Pure Movement Tracking —
tracks movement of individuals but
without restrictions on locations

Ways Different Jurisdictions Used GPS EM Technology
House Arrest


GPS Exclusion

Bernalillo County, NM (Albuquerque)




Cook County, IL (Chicago)




Orleans Parish, LA (New Orleans)


Baltimore City, MD


State of Connecticut




Multnomah County, OR (Portland)




Franklin County, OH (Columbus)


Los Angeles County, CA (Los Angeles)


San Francisco, CA


Cages Without Bars | 18

Pure Movement



Programs also differed in what entity
administers the program. In five
jurisdictions, a court-based pretrial
services system, housed either within
the probation department or as a
separate entity, ran the program, with
contracts with private companies
providing the equipment at a rental
fee to the county. In Cook County,
Illinois, one program was run by a
pretrial services agency, while the other
was run by the sheriff’s office, a law
enforcement agency; private companies
were contracted both for the equipment

and for running the call center. In
two jurisdictions, New Orleans and
Baltimore, private companies fully ran
programs, including collecting fees,
providing equipment, and monitoring
accused people, and reporting violations
to the court.

by far was in Cook County, Illinois,
where over 3,500 people are subject to
EM. Before the COVID-19 pandemic,
EM populations closer to 2,300 were
normal. No other jurisdiction we
surveyed reported a program of more
than 1,000 people.

The size of electronic monitoring
programs varied widely between
jurisdictions. The smallest programs
were often primarily used to monitor
individuals accused of domestic
violence. The largest program surveyed

Two jurisdictions we interviewed,
New Orleans and Baltimore, could not
provide us with the information of how
large their program was because private
companies were fully in charge of
the system.21

Differences in EM Program Administration
Pretrial Services
Bernalillo County, NM (Albuquerque)


Cook County, IL (Chicago)


Sheriff ’s Office



Orleans Parish, LA (New Orleans)


Baltimore City, MD
State of Connecticut


Multnomah County, OR (Portland)


Franklin County, OH (Columbus)


Los Angeles County, CA (Los Angeles)


San Francisco, CA

Cages Without Bars | 19

Private Company




Size of Electronic Monitoring Programs Surveyed

Approximate Number of People Subject to EM

Cook County

3,450 (split between two programs)

State of Connecticut


Los Angeles


Multnomah County


Franklin County


Bernalillo County


EM populations have fluctuated over
time in the jurisdictions surveyed.
Bernalillo County, which is actively
working to reduce its reliance on EM,
has approximately 100 people on a
monitor at any given time. New Orleans’
EM population decreased as a result
of the sheriff’s department ending
its EM program. In Baltimore and in
Cook County, efforts to reduce the
local jail population in response to the
COVID-19 pandemic have led to large
increases in the use of pretrial electronic
monitoring. Franklin County also saw
an increase in the usage of EM during
the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic,
the number of adults on EM in
Franklin County during any given time
averaged between 120-125.
Like Cook County, Multnomah
County and Baltimore City have
multiple EM programs. Multnomah
County’s EM programs are run by
the community corrections division
and the sheriff’s Close Street Program;
Baltimore City has two private EM

Cages Without Bars | 20

companies that supervise accused
people on the monitor in addition
to a small program run by the sheriff.
New Orleans’ EM programs are
run completely by two private
EM companies.

Admission to Electronic
Monitoring Programs
For almost every jurisdiction that we
covered, judges determine if an accused
person is going to be placed on pretrial
electronic monitoring.22 EM is normally
assigned in the very early stages of a
case. In most jurisdictions, this happens
at bond court, shortly after a person is
arrested and charged.
In some jurisdictions, EM is assigned
within hours, or a few days of the
person being arrested and charged. For
instance, in Bernalillo County, the
Pretrial Services Department completes
a public safety assessment and makes

a recommendation for the level of
supervision to the court. From there,
the judge makes a final determination
for the type of pretrial supervision.
Los Angeles, Cook County, Franklin
County, and Connecticut have
similar systems that assign electronic
monitoring at the first appearance of
a person before the court, but all also
reported that judges sometimes
assign EM later in the pendency of
the case when judges believe that a
person requires additional
restrictive conditions.
Multnomah County, on the other hand,
used electronic monitoring primarily
in alcohol-related and domestic
violence cases, as well as frequently after
violations of other conditions of pretrial
release — for example, for people
accused of domestic violence who have
violated the terms of a protection order
when released without EM.
In the two jurisdictions we surveyed
where private companies are responsible

for electronic monitoring, accused
people and their lawyers are directly
responsible for finding a private
company to administer the electronic
monitoring and signing up with
them. In Baltimore, defense attorneys
have their clients fill out forms to
apply to one of the two private EM
companies’ programs, and a company
representative then appears in court at
the accused person’s bond hearing to
present any information to the judge
about how the program works. In New
Orleans, an attorney can request a bond
reduction with the condition of EM at
the beginning of a case, or a judge can
indicate that they will only reduce bond
if EM is a condition. The jail will then
not release the person ordered to EM
until one of the private EM companies
is contacted and comes to outfit the
person with a device. Judges can also
order EM at any point in the case, and
require that an individual come back
to court within a certain number of
days with proof they have been

Cages Without Bars | 21

outfitted with an ankle monitor from
a private company.
Decision-Making Rationales
Judges use several different decisionmaking rationales to determine
whether to place someone on electronic
monitoring. Cook County and
Bernalillo County use the Public Safety
Assessment, an actuarial risk assessment
developed by Arnold Ventures that is
among the most widely used pretrial
risk assessments. The Public Safety
Assessment scores accused people on
a scale of 1-6 in both risk of failing
to appear in court and risk of being
rearrested pretrial.23 In Los Angeles
and Connecticut, pretrial services
use a local risk assessment to score
accused people. Multnomah County
system actors described their system as
currently relying mostly on the charge
against a person, but expressed a hope
that they would soon transition to a risk
assessment-based system.

Judges and other system actors in
these jurisdictions noted, however,
that these risk assessments were not
specifically tied to EM use, and that
risk assessments did not explicitly
recommend EM for any given accused
person, or specifically recommend
against it. No system stakeholders
described any training or standards that
were in use to ensure that all judges
applied electronic monitoring in the
same way. Instead, judges relied on
their own assessment of who should or
should not be assigned to the monitor.
The charges facing an accused person
are a key consideration in making
admission decisions. Particularly for
SCRAM alcohol devices, judges in
some jurisdictions noted that they
assigned alcohol monitoring in nearly
every felony driving-under-the-influence
case. People who were charged with
domestic violence or sex offense cases
were often placed on GPS monitoring
because of additional court orders or
underlying laws that required those
particular accused people to avoid
certain areas.

In some jurisdictions, defense attorneys
also played a role in advocating for
electronic monitoring for some of their
clients. In Baltimore and New Orleans,
defense attorneys worked with clients to
identify private companies that would
allow them access to EM if they could
afford it. In Cook County, Franklin
County, and Los Angeles, defense
attorneys indicated that they would
sometimes ask for EM if they thought
it was the only way to get their client
released on bail.
The unifying feature of all EM
admissions processes was their lack of
clearly defined practices and standards.
No jurisdiction had clear lists of charges
that were and were not eligible for
electronic monitoring — in theory,
most programs were available for cases
that ranged from low-level non-violent
misdemeanors to murders.
Several interviewees spoke of their
jurisdictions using EM for people who
were considered “unstable” in some
way by the system actors — either
because they were housing insecure,
young, or had a history of failures to
appear. Some defense attorneys noted
that they sometimes recommended
electronic monitoring for these
types of clients, who they described
as unable to follow court orders. As
we note below, however, housing
instability in particular can cause major
complications for participation in
electronic monitoring.

Cages Without Bars | 22

Overall, this quote from one judge best
describes the variance between and
within jurisdictions as to how accused
people are assigned to EM:


or biweekly check-ins with a pretrial
services officer, either in person or by
phone, and sometimes incorporated
drug testing into their EM programs for
all or some monitored people.

Not all us judges do things the same way. And
it’s very difficult to develop policy that everybody
adheres to, with just the changing personnel on
the bench, with the lack of real formal education
training, it’s sort of all on the job.”

Rules of Electronic
Monitoring Programs
In the jurisdictions studied,
people awaiting trial are subject to
five categories of rules and
regulations governing:
1. Movement;
2. Device maintenance and
false alarms.
3. Rules enforcement and violations
4. Payment of fees; and
5. Additional pretrial requirements.
The main requirements for accused
people on EM were that they (1) follow
the movement rules they had been
assigned and be in their homes when
they were supposed to be, and (2)
maintain the EM equipment so that it
could work properly, including keeping
the battery charged. In jurisdictions that
charge money for monitoring, payment
of fees was another requirement. Four
jurisdictions also incorporated weekly

Requesting Movement
As noted above, nearly all jurisdictions
impose some movement restriction
on accused people, requiring them to
be at home for some or all the time.
People on EM must seek what is called
“movement” — permission from a
supervising authority to leave home for
a specific purpose or at a specific time.
For individuals on total or partial home
confinement, system actors across
jurisdictions described two major
paradigms for how movement was
requested and approved. Under the
first paradigm, the judge issuing the
electronic monitoring order was the
only person who could approve specific
movement requests. Cook County,
under the second paradigm, the pretrial
officer assigned to the accused person’s
case has discretion to allow or restrict
movement as they see fit. In Baltimore,
New Orleans, Franklin County, and
Cook County, all movement requests
must be approved through a court
order.24 Violations are reported directly

to the court. In Baltimore, a judge then
decides whether any action is necessary.
In Cook County, accused individuals
are often immediately taken into
custody after a violation is identified
by the sheriff’s office; the sheriff has
authority to unilaterally decide that an
individual has violated the terms of their
house arrest and re-incarcerate them.
The Cook County Sheriff’s office can
also then request that the prosecutor
charge the person with “Escape from
Electronic Monitoring,’’ an additional
felony charge in most cases.25
In Multnomah, Los Angeles County,
and Bernalillo, the level of monitoring

and restriction (house arrest vs. curfew,
etc.) is determined by the judge; then,
everyone on electronic monitoring is
assigned a pretrial services officer who
personally manages their case. System
actors told us that they instructed
monitored people to call that pretrial
officer to request movement for various
activities that had not already been
allowed by court order, and that pretrial
officer calls the monitored person
if they detected any unauthorized
movement for an explanation. Officers
were then responsible for triaging
alerts of unauthorized movement,
battery life alerts, and equipment

tamper alerts and only forwarded
alerts to the court when a monitored
person was unreachable or unable to
satisfactorily explain the reason for the
alert. In some jurisdictions, there was
an additional layer of triage where the
private company that provided the
EM equipment triaged which alerts
reached pretrial officers in the first place.
In these jurisdictions, pretrial officers
were given some discretion as to when
to approve movement and when not
to, and when violations warranted
escalation and additional action by the
courts. Bernalillo County’s movement
policy reads:

Some defendants operate on a curfew. All curfew exceptions are entered into schedules by the Pretrial
Services Supervising Officer or at Intake. The approval for curfew extensions are made by the supervising
officer or their supervisor, as they have the most contact with defendants and this keeps a defendant
from playing supervising officers against each other. It will be made clear to defendants upon GPS intake
that foreseeable curfew violations (AA meetings, counseling, employment) should be approved by the
supervising officer during regular business hours (0800-1700). Unfortunately, emergencies do happen.
However, proof will need to be provided to the supervising officer in these circumstances as well as the
defendant being instructed to contact the supervising officer’s voicemail to advise of the emergency. If
the defendant has a curfew extension that will be re-occurring (i.e., counseling services/church at a set day,
time, and location), the schedule should be adjusted by the PTS Supervising Officer to reflect this change.
This should also occur if there is a one-time extension. When the extension is approved, the supervising
officer will explain to the defendant that the defendant is to return directly home without making stops.

Attorneys expressed frustration with
both approaches. In jurisdictions with
strict movement rules set by the court,
defense attorneys noted that their
clients often had to contact them in
emergencies to go back into court and

Cages Without Bars | 23

get a court order for certain kinds of
movement, causing inconvenience to
the accused person and the attorney
alike. Some attorneys noted that their
clients were sometimes re-incarcerated
without their knowledge, impairing

their ability to effectively represent
their clients and get them back out of
custody quickly. In other instances,
defense attorneys have complained
about too many movement requests
from their client. One lawyer charged a

client $250 to file a request with a judge
for a movement.26
On the other hand, a public defender in
one jurisdiction expressed frustration
as to the individual discretion sheriff’s
officers have in one of the EM programs
and the sometimes arbitrary nature of
movement denials. “You know, and
even, running to the grocery store. I’ve
had it where the officers questioned
whether they’re making too many
trips to the grocery store, things like
that.” A parent taking a child to a
family gathering might be approved,
but a recreational trip to the beach
would be denied. In all these programs,
movement was allowed only when an

officer deemed that it was “important”
or “necessary.” Some defense attorneys
noted that this could create unclear
expectations for their clients, especially
when clients switched between officers,
since each had a slightly different
set of expectations. In addition, the
questioning from officers about why a
certain kind of authorized movement
was being requested frequently put the
onus on the monitored person to justify
lawful, reasonable activities like going to
the grocery store.
Because most jurisdictions used GPS
bands, verification was possible by
simply reviewing the movement record
of the individual. Nonetheless, most

jurisdictions required additional
verification that a person was where
they said they were — pay stubs and
schedules from work, forms to be filled
out by doctors’ officers, and other
documentation. This documentation
could usually be provided after the
movement if the person requested the
movement before leaving their home.
The documentation required could be
as simple as a note or phone call from
a doctor’s office, or as complicated
as a signed letter on letterhead faxed
by the employer. The person on EM
contract from a Baltimore EM company
shows how detailed these verification
requirements can be:

A. I agree to submit verification of weekly work hours. Verification should be originals or copies of pay
stubs. Verification of employment must be from an independent source. I must notify ASAP immediately
of any change in employment.
B. I agree that all activities outside of home or work that are permitted and pre-approved must be verified:
1. Religious Service: Get a bulletin with the name, address, and phone number of the place of
worship. Have the service officiant sign next to the date. Only if allowed by Court.
2. AA/NA meetings/counseling: Name, Location, Telephone Number, Date and Time, Stamped
attendance record. Only stamped meetings permitted.
3. Personal time for activities necessary to maintain the household and/or personal hygiene: Receipts
with Date and Time, Signed and Dated Business cards. Only if allowed by Court.

Cages Without Bars | 24

One attorney noted that the
requirements for documentation
could be so high that their clients were
unable to meet them. This attorney
noted that, in cases where an accused
person was employed or participating
in a treatment program,

“of course, this puts clients
at risk for their job or
treatment regimen if
they are not allowed to
participate when their
proof is denied, and they
have no recourse but to
come to court. We are not
notified by the Sheriff
when this denial [of proper
documentation] happens.”
A common thread running through
all the jurisdictions surveyed was that
movement was only approved if it was
considered necessary or in some way
“beneficial” to the accused person’s life.
No jurisdiction allowed movement
for simple everyday leisure activities,
exercise like jogging or going to the gym,
or even for just sitting outside one’s
home in a yard or public park. Within
the hours that a person was considered
under house arrest — whether that was
12 hours, 20 hours, or 24 hours a day
— time outside the home was available
only if a court authority decided that
it was worthwhile. This is one of many
ways that electronic monitoring is
fundamentally different from release
without a monitor — there is no
freedom to simply live one’s life in the
way one wants.

Cages Without Bars | 25

Many jurisdictions avoided the
complicated rules of movement
requests by having most monitored
people on a curfew program, rather
than a house arrest program. In three
jurisdictions, Connecticut, Bernalillo,
and Multnomah, curfew rules were
the norm rather than the exception.
San Francisco’s program required
most monitored people simply to stay
within 50 miles of the sheriff’s office.27
In two jurisdictions, Los Angeles
and Multnomah jurisdictions, the
movements of some monitored people
were not restricted at all, but they
were tracked and recorded. All
jurisdictions, however, had at least some
monitored people who were confined
to their homes.
Device Maintenance and
False Alarms
Throughout our interviews, system
actors noted that EM technology
was not always reliable. Interviewees
reported a wide range of technological
glitches and issues. Nearly every
jurisdiction reported that their GPS
bands sometimes say that a person is
outside their residence, or within an
exclusion zone, when in fact they are
not. Jurisdictions used a wide variety of
electronic monitoring companies, but
many reported “alerts” of movement
violations, dead batteries, and even strap
tampers (the alert sent when the band
detects an attempt to forcibly remove
it) that later turned out to be false. A
few jurisdictions reported that it was
common for accused people to be reincarcerated because of these technical
glitches, and that it became difficult

to get people re-released afterwards.
Defense attorneys complained that,
in practice, the burden was often on
the accused person to prove that the
machine had malfunctioned.
The requirement that devices be
frequently charged placed additional
burdens on accused persons,
particularly people who were poor and
unstably housed. Most GPS bands
must be plugged into a wall for hours
each day; since they are not meant to be
removed, this means that the individual
on EM must also stay plugged into a
wall each day. Unsurprisingly, not every
person has the ability to sit in a home
with electricity for multiple consecutive
hours and charge their band. Homeless
shelters, for example, sometimes did not
have the space for individuals to charge
their bands. Violations for uncharged
batteries often fall hardest on those with
the least resources, who do not have a
reliable way to charge the technology.
Rules Enforcement
Because most jurisdictions had their
pretrial staff keep traditional daytime
hours, enforcement of rules only
happened during those hours as well.
In most jurisdictions we surveyed,
officers reviewed any overnight
movement on their next shift and
contacted the monitored person for
explanation. In most jurisdictions,
pretrial services/EM officers had
the authority to decide whether an
explanation of unauthorized movement
was sufficient to avoid a rule violation
report. Cook County, a notable
exception, has 24/7 monitoring.

Officers in different jurisdictions used
different methods to determine which
rule violations to report to the court
for re-incarceration. Bernalillo County
had the most formalized process, which
involved a matrix that graphs the level
of violation against the monitored
person’s risk level as determined by a
risk assessment tool. This tool is used
to determine whether a person will
be given a warning, referred to the
court for a follow-up court date, or
has a warrant issued for their arrest.
Bernalillo’s program also includes
multiple levels of monitoring, from just
a curfew to allowing movement only
for employment, medical, and legal
appointments. Prior to the COVID-19
pandemic, Bernalillo had a dedicated
court docket to deal with EM violations,
and pretrial services staff often appear
at both that docket call and the
regular criminal courts to provide
updates on an accused person’s level of
compliance with the program; during
the COVID-19 pandemic, violations
have been handled by each monitored
person’s assigned judge, similar to other
jurisdictions we interviewed.
In some jurisdictions, each judge set
their own rules and expectations for
individuals on EM, with some issuing
warrants for even minor violations, and
others issuing arrest warrants only when
an individual was arrested for a new
crime or committed a serious violation,
like unauthorized contact with a victim.
As one stakeholder in Baltimore put
it, “(T)he judge is not a
regulatory framework or statutory

Cages Without Bars | 26

framework, kind of checking boxes...
it’s really the judge’s discretion about
what he or she will allow the defendant
to do.” In contrast, other jurisdictions
had a standardized court form, and
judges “checked off” what categories
of movement they would allow. For
instance, judges in Los Angeles County
had a conditions checklist to be
completed for each person on EM, with
options like “medical appointments,”
“school,” “work,” “job searching,” etc.
In other jurisdictions, movement
approval decisions were made
mostly by pretrial officers on the
ground, as were determinations for
whether a person would be violated
for unauthorized movement. In one
jurisdiction, EM clients could send
a text message to their parole officer
requesting permission to do things
like grocery shop. Pretrial services
spoke of this discretion as a system that
allowed flexibility for individual EM
monitored persons. Jurisdictions that
allowed this granular control by pretrial
service officers did seem to allow more
categories of movement. For example,
some administrators in these counties
mentioned allowing some movement
for family gatherings and for outings
to the grocery store. There was also
evidence of EM administrators taking
extenuating circumstances into account
when determining whether to penalize
a technical violation. An administrator
explained, “[W]e’re going to meet them
with some understanding and some
empathy. Like last week, we had a guy
whose girlfriend broke down in kind of

a dangerous part of town, he went and
changed out her tire and got her home....
So we watched the tracking where he
said she was on the side of the road.
And then we watched him come back
home.... [S]o as long as they do those
things, not a big deal.”
In EM programs that allow movement,
program staff made judgments about
what kind of movement was “necessary”
and “unnecessary.” For example, some
pretrial services administrators denied
movement for grocery shopping if
they determined a person was grocery
shopping “too much” or going every
day. Employment and education
seemed always necessary, but family
engagements and daily life activities
were often deemed unnecessary.
There was a lack of clarity with many
programs regarding whether EM/
house arrest was supposed to replicate
jail conditions, heavily monitored and
with limited privileges, or whether it
was meant to replicate freedom, with
limited restrictions.
All jurisdictions reported the same
basic structure for how violations
were detected. All reported that the
contracted companies that owned
the GPS or RF bands had some
arrangement by which they notified
either pretrial services or the court about
a movement violation, dead battery, or
equipment tamper. Some jurisdictions
had protocols for companies to filter
out some likely technical or mistaken
alerts that probably did not represent

an actual violation of rules, though
we were unable to obtain information
on the specifics of those filters. Those
companies would then deal with some
of these “filtered” violations using
private company staff, forwarding only
more serious violations to the courts.
Once a violation was detected, a judge
usually decided whether the person
should or should not be re-incarcerated.
In Cook County, the sheriff’s office has
the power to unilaterally re-incarcerate
participants without judicial approval
and bring them to a judge after they
were already in jail. In two jurisdictions,
defense attorneys mentioned that
they aren’t always notified when their
client gets arrested for a violation, and
they often learn about the arrest when
they arrive at court. This impaired
their ability to represent their clients
and meant that monitored people
sometimes spent days in jail only to
be released once their lawyers explained
the circumstances of a minor violation
to a judge.
Payment of Fees
When EM proponents discuss
electronic monitoring, they often
describe it as a cost-saving measure to
state and counties. While EM may be
cheaper, the costs shift to the impacted
person and their loved ones. Even
in cases where no fees are charged,
household members often bear the
costs of food, transportation, and other
necessities due to monitoring rules that
limit an individual’s capacity to work or
earn income while on EM.

Cages Without Bars | 27

Although the cost of electronic
monitoring per day is less than a
night in jail, it is not free. While
some probation offices and sheriff’s
departments operate their own EM
programs — renting the equipment
from manufacturers, hiring staff, and
collecting fees directly from monitored
persons — others rely on private
companies to oversee their programs.
Increasingly, local governments looking
to offset costs have contracted with
private companies to outsource various
functions of the criminal legal system.28
A 2014 study by National Public Radio
and the Brennan Center found that,
except for Hawaii, every state required
people to pay at least part of the costs
associated with GPS monitoring.29
However, the wide range of electronic
monitoring services contractors can
also mean a wide range in costs to
both local governments and to those
ordered to participate in EM. Fees
imposed on accused people commonly
range between $5 to $25 per day, but
often involve large initial payments for
upfront costs to cover an initial period
of monitoring, such as “enrollment”
or “activation” fees. In some cases, the
per-day cost to monitored people can be
as high as $40.
This profit-driven model has raised
questions about the coercive nature of
transactions between monitored people,
who are often indigent, and private
corporations motivated by profit.
Unlike credit card companies and other
private debt collectors who must file
claims in civil court to begin involuntary
collection, EM companies can threaten

people under supervision with a return
to jail or prison and can reliably initiate
collection through the criminal court
system. This has led to class-action
lawsuits against electronic monitoring
companies; for example, LCA has been
sued in a lawsuit that claims extortion in
violation of federal racketeering laws.30
The plaintiffs allege that the company
misleads individuals into paying high
daily rates and then threatens them with
prison time if they fail to pay.
Entrenchment of private companies also
threatens to create perverse incentives
for judges and state politicians. For
example, in New Orleans, Criminal
Court Judge Paul Bonin was sued in
federal court amid allegations that he
“appeared to make ankle monitoring
decisions — including pretrial jailing
decisions — based on the financial
interests of ETOH,” a private electronic
monitoring company operating in New
Orleans with which the judge is alleged
to have “personal, financial, professional,
and political relationships.”31 Electronic
monitoring companies have also
benefited from substantial state
appropriations, even those funded
by federal COVID-19 relief funds.
In North Carolina, $3.5 million in
CARES Act funding was awarded to a
nonprofit to “manage a pilot program
to implement electronic monitoring
of defendants charged with domestic
violence crimes who were released from
jail awaiting trial.” All of the money
was eventually paid to politically
connected Tarheel Monitoring — a
Wilmington-based EM servicer that
will provide 1,400 ankle monitors and at

least 126,000 days of active monitoring
at a rate of $22.23 per day under
the contract.
Of the jurisdictions that we surveyed,
the costs of the monitors varied
and who was responsible for paying
those costs were equally diverse. In 3
jurisdictions, people on pretrial EM are
responsible for paying the cost of being
on the monitor, with fees going directly
to the private companies that own the
devices and run the operation. In one
jurisdiction, people on EM pay $230 in
upfront costs and then $6 a day after the
first month. In another, the cost of EM
depends on whether an accused person
is represented by a private attorney or
if a public defender has been appointed
to represent them. Usually, people
represented by the public defender
get a less expensive rate ($17/day if an
accused person has a private attorney
or $11/day if an accused person has a
public defender). In four jurisdictions,
the state and county fund the full
costs of the EM program for all
monitored people.

Accused People’s
Perceptions and
Evaluations of the
Any assessment of EM programs in
practice should include the voices of
people impacted by these programs.
Here are some quotes we heard from
individuals on EM:

Cages Without Bars | 28

“It’s like saying ‘you gotta
walk 5 miles every day, but
I’m putting a rock in your
shoe, and you don’t get to
fuck with the rock.’”
“They don’t care about you
in jail, they don’t care about
you out of jail, and they
damn sure don’t care about
you on EM.”
“I had to pay someone to get
me toilet tissue because I
couldn’t leave the house.”
“It took me 35 years to get
where I was. It’s gonna take
me another 35 years to get
back what I lost.”
“If there’s anything going
on in your life, EM makes
it worse.”
Although the stories we heard from
monitored people varied from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the most
common theme that emerged was how
EM debilitated and humiliated people
impacted by these programs.
Impact on Finding and
Keeping Housing
As noted above, GPS program
requirements present unique
challenges to people who are unhoused
or housing insecure. In Bernalillo

County, administrators recounted
going before judges and requesting
that an accused person be removed
from EM supervision because of their
unintentional inability to reliably
comply with the conditions of the
program. Several times throughout the
interviews, defense attorneys and judges
from three jurisdictions raised concerns
regarding their unhoused clients,
many of whom did not have a place to
regularly charge their EM devices. It
was not uncommon for these clients to
incur multiple technical violations
as a result.
In jurisdictions with high daily costs
for participation in pretrial electronic
monitoring, homelessness rarely appears
as a problem for individuals being
monitored simply because the cost of
participation is too high for unhoused
people. In both jurisdictions, failure to
pay the fees associated with EM results
in a violation of the program that could
lead to re-incarceration; a person who is
manifestly unable to pay the fee will not
be placed on the program in the
first place and will usually remain in
jail instead.
Jurisdictions had a range of approaches
to monitoring individuals who lived in
homeless shelters and other communal
settings. Interviewees in one jurisdiction
noted that, since homeless shelters in
the area often require residents to leave
the property during the day, people
living in shelters rarely had the ability to
charge their house arrest bands. In other

jurisdictions, interviewees who lived in
communal living situations noted that
people on EM were forced to charge
their bands for the required two hours in
public settings like fast food restaurants
to comply with the rules.
Unstably housed people on EM often
struggled with the approval of other
individuals living in the home. Some
jurisdictions checked ahead of time
to see whether other residents were
comfortable with the individual staying
in the home. Others left the question
to the private companies that run their
programs. In two jurisdictions, system
actors noted that accused individuals
on electronic monitoring sometimes
have issues with local public housing
authorities rejecting their requests to
be admitted to subsidized housing
programs due to the need for permission
from the landlord and the perceptions of
criminality attached to the devices.
In two jurisdictions, interviewees shared
that EM caused housing instability
because of the way the program was
administered and the way that warrants
and movement violations were handled.
One defense attorney related that a mixup in the EM program’s system had led
to the accused individual being arrested
and handcuffed in front of neighbors
and family in the hallway of his
approved residence. After that incident,
the landlord looked further into the
person’s charges and banned him from
the apartment complex, forcing him to
find less stable housing elsewhere and
ultimately causing him to lose his job. In
another jurisdiction, interviewees noted
that sheriff’s department staff regularly

Cages Without Bars | 29

come to their apartments in full uniform
for routine check-ins, frightening and
inconveniencing neighbors.
Cook County has a unique system for
providing electronic monitoring to
homeless individuals. The county courts
have contracts with two shelter locations
that are paid to house individuals who
are not able to provide an address that
meets the requirements of the program
and where the leaseholder or owner
agrees to them staying. These shelter
locations provide the same services
to individuals on EM as they do to other
temporarily housed people. The sheriff’s
office maintains a “no place to stay”
waitlist and assigns individuals
directly into these programs as beds
become available.
Impact on Finding and
Maintaining Employment
EM can severely undermine the ability of
accused individuals to find and maintain
employment. The home confinement
component limits the time individuals
may be outside of their residences
or even restricts movement entirely.
Although people may request movement,
responsiveness to these requests may
vary not only from jurisdiction to
jurisdiction, but from person to person
and even from request to request. Indeed,
as a public defender in San Francisco
reported, modifying or removing an
individual’s movement restrictions to
allow them to work could require a
specific court order.

Several people we interviewed described
challenges finding and maintaining
employment while on EM. An accused
person in Chicago expressed frustration
at being allowed to go to a job interview
and tentatively get the job, only to
subsequently lose it when she was unable
to get permission to meet for a follow
up interview the next day. As a result,
people on EM report having to rely on
other household members for financial
support, placing an economic strain
on them that negatively impacts their
families. Indeed, this lack of flexibility
seems to be a notable issue for many
on pretrial EM. An advocate in San
Francisco noted that people on EM are
often prohibited from employment that
requires flexibility in terms of location,
such as construction, transportation,
landscaping, or delivery services, or
effectively prohibited from employment
that requires scheduling flexibility, such
as in the service industries.
An accused individual interviewed in
New York was incarcerated at the age
of 15. In November 2020, he managed
to get his case returned to court and has
been allowed to post bond through a bail
company, however, he remains confined
to his home on EM while awaiting a
retrial. He reports that the conditions of
his monitoring effectively prevent him
from obtaining employment outside the


Electronic monitoring
can severely undermine
the ability of accused
individuals to find and
maintain employment.

home and that he was forced to start
a GoFundMe account to raise money
both for his defense as well as to meet
his basic needs.
The impact of EM on employment
can extend beyond the monitored
individual and affect others in the
community as well. One monitored
person in Chicago owns and operates
a small company that offers 24-hour
emergency roadside automotive
assistance. The conditions of his EM
require him to be confined within his
home from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. While
this is certainly more time out of the
home than others may get, he reports
that many of the calls for his service
come in outside of these hours and
that he is then unable to respond. This
has not only affected these immediate
requests for services, but it has had a
ripple effect on his business, as the more
calls he has been unable to respond
to, the fewer calls he receives. “I would
say I’m losing about 70% [of my
normal business],” he notes. This loss
of business extends beyond his own

Cages Without Bars | 30

pockets into the community, as he has
two full-time employees who rely upon
his business for their own livelihoods.
Impact on Physical and
Mental Health
Both system actors and accused
individuals across several jurisdictions
reported a wide range of health
complications related to or exacerbated
by EM. Although most individuals
on EM said that there is a procedure
in place for requesting movement, a
number reported an unresponsiveness
to, or even outright denial of, requests
for permission to seek medical
treatment or even to pick up prescribed
medicine. One individual on EM in
Cook County said she was denied
permission to go to a local pharmacy
to have her prescription filled. “I have
seizures and I need my medicine,” she
said. “They told me to call 911 if I
have a medical issue. I don’t need 911,
I need to go to Walgreens and get my
medicine.” She also reported not being
granted permission to see a specialist

that her doctor had recommended and
being denied permission to take her
son to get an EKG, noting the impact
on the health of family members who
normally rely on the monitored person
to take them to obtain medical care. A
black transgender woman in Chicago,
reported being denied movement to
go to the pharmacy to pick up her HIV
medication, which she was supposed to
take daily.
The monitor itself may also present
a health concern. In some instances,
the device, once clamped around a
person’s leg, may cause wounds or
sores to appear. Alicia Virani, Gilbert
Foundation Director of the Criminal
Justice Program at UCLA School of
Law and former deputy public defender
in Orange County reports witnessing
sores on a client she was representing.
“You are in court and showing your
client’s leg,” she says. “How humiliating
is that to have to show your sores in
court? And then the court is like
‘Well, go to the doctor and get a
doctor’s note.’”

It should also be noted that no
interviewee reported being asked about
any preexisting conditions that might
be exacerbated by the presence of the
monitor. This is particularly troubling,
as some monitoring companies note
a number of medical conditions that
could be complicated by the presence of
an electronic monitor.
For example, SCRAM Systems, a
monitoring company whose website
currently boasts 831,380 clients
monitored and 4 billion alcohol
tests performed with their CAM
(Continuous Alcohol Monitor) devices,
note that certain medical conditions
may prevent users from wearing these
devices, as well their SCRAM House
Arrest and SCRAM GPS devices. These
medical conditions include, among
others, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis,
tendonitis, and pregnancy. SCRAM
Systems also warns that complications
such as sores, open wounds, bruising,
and severe irritation or redness may
occur, and that these devices may not
be compatible with medical devices
such as pacemakers or other implanted
medical devices.
The COVID-19 crisis has added
another layer of health-related concern.
Throughout the pandemic, prisons and
jails notoriously have been hotspots for
COVID-19 transmission. Nevertheless,
accused individuals report being
returned to jail for technical violations
associated with electronic monitoring
during the pandemic. An individual
interviewed in Chicago reports
being the victim of a malfunctioning

Cages Without Bars | 31

monitor that resulted in a violation
and being confined to Cook County
Jail for several days, during which time
it was one of the highest locations of
transmission in the country.32
Across the jurisdictions we surveyed,
interviewees noted a negative impact
on mental health brought about by
the monitor. Interviewees reported
that monitored people experience an
intense level of stress attempting to
maintain their lives under the duress
of EM. A case manager for unstably
housed people in San Francisco reports
this stress can further unravel the
lives of people who are in precarious
positions. He offers an example of a
client who had managed to overcome
a drug dependency and was making
efforts to gain stability, yet had these
efforts undermined by the stress of
repeated technical violations due to his
inability to meet the device’s charging
requirements. “It wasn’t even like trying
to make him stay adherent to the rules;
it was ‘We’ve already criminalized you
and so we’re going to keep our boots on
your neck,’” he says. “This is someone
who really worked hard to get to the
point that he did, and they just kind of
chipped away at it until he said ‘F**k
it’ and started injecting dope at a rate
where he started overdosing.”
Many people on pretrial electronic
monitoring report feelings of depression
brought about by the confinement and
social isolation that often accompanies
EM. Individuals we interviewed also
report heavy feelings of stigmatization
associated with wearing the monitor.

An accused person in Chicago remarks,
“It’s embarrassing. I feel judged. I feel
like a slave.” Another interviewee says
of his own experience with the monitor,
“I would have never guessed it would be
so mentally draining to have that stupid
monitor on.”
Impact on Family
In addition to the impact EM has on
accused individuals experiencing it, EM
also has a significant impact on those
individuals’ families. Since they are
often confined to the home, people on
the monitor report feeling like a drain
on their families as they are not able to
do everything necessary to take care of
themselves, let alone take care of others
and maintain a household. Basic tasks
such as grocery shopping, going to the
laundromat, or even taking children to
school become impossible. In Chicago,
one individual on EM told us “I had to
pay someone to get toilet tissue for me
because I couldn’t leave the house.”
The negative impact on family seems
particularly evident when speaking with
parents who are on pretrial EM. They
report a distinct disruption in their
ability to parent their children. One
individual on EM reported an inability
to meet with her child’s teacher. When
speaking about how EM can erode the
family dynamic, one parent stated,
“My children have to do things for me
that I should be doing for them. I feel
like I’m the child.”
In addition to disrupting the normal
family dynamic, respondents report

being unable to attend family events,
even in extreme circumstances.
“I had the birth of a child,” an
accused individual in Chicago
relates, “and literally wasn’t allowed
to be there because I didn’t have prior
authorization to go.” He goes on to say
that he had requested permission for
the due date, but that the baby arrived
five days early and that it generally
takes about four days to get permission.
Another person tells of being denied
permission to attend the bedside of
the woman who raised them as she
lay dying just a few miles away. The
reasoning given for the denial was that
the woman and the person on EM
were not “related.”

Cages Without Bars | 32

EM can undermine the harmony
within the community, particularly
in communities that are facing
outside pressures. People on
electronic monitoring are subjected to
unannounced drop-ins at their homes
by law enforcement at any time of the
day or night as well as at their jobs or
social programming or activity that
they attend. This not only impacts
the person wearing the monitor, but
everyone witnessing these intrusions.
An advocate in Baltimore notes that EM
“is economically kneecapping people
in a lot of ways. It does isolate people
from their communities and economic
opportunities in such a way that it is

really hard to present a united front
[against community issues such
as gentrification].”

The North American market
for electronic monitoring is
forecast to grow from $850
million in 2019 to close to
$1.2 billion in 2023.


Our study uncovered the complexity
of issues affecting people on electronic
monitoring and the communities in
which they live. Addressing these issues
is increasingly urgent, as the use of EM
and the technology behind it expands
and evolves. While the academic and
policy literature about EM is sparse, it
has grown rapidly in the past few years,
raising many of the concerns noted
in this report. It reflects a growing
consensus that electronic monitoring is
a failed tool. Our own research joins this
consensus. Below we highlight several

Cages Without Bars | 33

strategies and tactics for responding to
the failures of electronic monitoring.
Across our interviews with a diverse
set of judges, attorneys, advocates,
monitored people, and EM
administrators, we found no one who
believed that EM was fully successful at
achieving its goals of increasing public
safety or decreasing failures to appear
in court. With the exception of San
Francisco, no other jurisdiction has
attempted a systematic, independent
assessment of the effectiveness of

electronic monitoring. System actors
in jurisdictions with older programs,
like Bernalillo County and Cook
County, advocated reducing the size
and impact of their programs and use
EM less in our interviews with them.33
This research complements virtually all
existing EM studies, which have also not
provided evidence that EM is effective
or serves a positive purpose for the
monitored individual.34

Electronic monitoring causes
immense harm to people who are
monitored. The harm created by
EM is immense. Monitored people
provided gut-wrenching accounts
of the ways their health, their
employment, and their families were
hurt by electronic monitoring. From
a systemic standpoint, EM offers a
false “alternative” to incarceration
that seems to lead to judges overusing the technology, particularly in
jurisdictions that are in transition from
a monetary bail-focused system to one
that prioritizes pretrial release without
monetary conditions. Bail reform
efforts are intended to respect the
presumption of innocence and allow
accused people to be free during pretrial
as much as possible. Bail reform efforts
are intended to respect the presumption
of innocence and allow accused people
to be free during pretrial as much as
possible. Using EM as a condition of
release undermines the fundamental
purposes of reform.
Previous studies document that
the harms of EM described by our
interviewees are widespread. A National
Institute of Justice study in 2011 found
that both monitored people and the
probation officers who supervised
them were “almost unanimous” in
agreeing that the visibility of ankle
monitors impeded people’s efforts to
find employment. That report also
documented substantial impacts on
personal relationships and self-image
for monitored people.35 A 2020 study
documented how the specific harms

Cages Without Bars | 34

Violations of EM conditions can result
in arrest. All the monitored people
who we interviewed spoke about living
in fear while on the monitor. Many
worried that an alarm would sound
while they were at work or picking their
child up from
school, risking
their employment
Accused people on pretrial electronic
or embarrassing
monitoring are entitled to the
themselves and
presumption of innocence.
their family
Monitored people
also expressed fear
that, at any moment, a law enforcement
Our own research echoes and expands
official could enter their homes and
on these concerns. Accused people
arrest them. Notably, for many people
on pretrial EM are entitled to the
on EM, “home” might be a homeless
presumption of innocence. However,
shelter or a friend’s couch. These living
even though it keeps accused people
situations are unpredictable and fluid,
outside of jail, EM mirrors jail. EM is
and sometimes lead to unfortunate
an invasive tool that not only surveils
events that are outside of the control of
accused people but also their family
the accused person on EM.
members. Our interviews revealed that
many people felt like law enforcement
Electronic monitoring rules are
was living inside of their home and
overly stringent and unclear. One
watching them. People on RF devices
consistent theme throughout all the
have physical receivers that must
jurisdictions we surveyed was that the
stay inside of the home at all times
movement restrictions are too stringent.
connected to the telephone jack. The
System actors generally understood
boxes receive and store messages from
that movement for work and medical
the supervising authority, and many
appointments were important, but they
of the monitors themselves can receive
had varied approaches to other types of
messages and calls at any time of
movement, such as grocery shopping,
day or night.
picking up a child from school, or
providing transportation for a loved
Both monitored people and program
one. Some jurisdictions offered more
administrators noted that the monitors
flexibility than others, but movement
are often unpredictable and often
decisions were often made arbitrarily
malfunction — sounding an alert when
based on the information provided
people are following their conditions.

caused by assigning individuals to
EM and transporting them back to
their homes was a punitive experience
that in and of itself caused people on
monitors to feel threatened,
subjugated, and powerless.36


and a subjective determination about
acceptable or believable activity for an
accused person.
In the most comprehensive study of
EM policies to date, Professor Kate
Weisburd and her team at George
Washington University School of
Law found that throughout the 101
jurisdictions whose programs
they surveyed,
strict restrictions on movement make
it difficult, if not impossible, for
people on monitors to do such simple
things as take out the garbage, work
in the front yard, or drive a family
member to the doctor. Any minor
deviation from a preset schedule,
or unauthorized movement, may
be considered a violation, exposing
the person on a monitor to
potential incarceration.37
Research by the Chicago Appleseed
Center for Fair Courts on the Cook
County Electronic Monitoring
program shows an example of how
strict movement policies can lead to
re-incarceration. They analyzed records
from BI Incorporated, the company
that is contracted by Cook County to
run their pretrial EM program. This
analysis showed that over 500 people
had been re-incarcerated for purely
technical rule violations in the first
six months of 2021 alone — and
that that number was triple the
number of re-incarcerations for
technical violations had been in the
first six months of 2019.38
Our research confirmed these studies.
Despite having movement “privileges,”

Cages Without Bars | 35

accused people on EM spend a
significant amount of time confined in
their homes — whether because they
are stuck sitting near an electrical outlet
waiting hours for their monitors to
be fully charged, or because they have
a curfew and are unable to leave their
homes, or both. Monitored people are
forced to rely on the people around
them to meet their basic needs and meet
the costs of home incarceration,
like incarcerated people relying on
prison guards.
The consequences of movement
violations often depend on the
supervising authority and the court.
The supervising authority has the
discretion to either immediately report
the violation to the court or address
the violation itself. If the supervisor
determines that the violation is serious,
and the accused person does not offer a
satisfactory explanation, the supervisor
can go to the court, request a warrant,
and, if issued, have the accused person
arrested. In some jurisdictions, defense
attorneys mentioned that they are
not always notified when their clients
are arrested for movement violations
and often learn about the arrest when
they arrive at court. Sometimes, the
supervising agency notifies the court
of the EM violation on the accused
person’s court date, and the court
determines if a revocation of bond is
necessary. The process for handling
violations varied in each jurisdiction,
and even within each jurisdiction
it varied based on the supervising
authority and judge involved. Many
community supervision departments
around the country utilize a graduated

sanction matrix. Sanction matrices are
intended to help guide departments’
decision-making when addressing
not only violations but also so-called
“positive behaviors.”
Electronic monitoring practices
transgress national best practices
for treatment of people awaiting
trial. There are no established national
best practices for people on pretrial
electronic monitoring or guidance
on its use. This is striking, given the
rapid growth of pretrial EM in the past
decade. However, far from endorsing
this practice, national groups that
provide guidance to jurisdictions
on appropriate treatment of people
accused of crimes have criticized EM.
In its policy paper on the use of EM,
the American Probation and Parole
Association said of location tracking
electronic monitoring (referred to
as LTS):
significant limitations exist that are
sometimes overlooked by uninformed
stakeholders eager for easy solutions
to complex problems. Location
tracking has been billed as a panacea,
a space-age solution that will solve
many of the criminal justice system’s
woes (DeMichele & Payne, 2009).
Many observers fail to realize that an
LTS, like any technology, is only a
tool to be used (or misused) as part of
a larger supervision strategy.
The National Association of Pretrial
Services Agencies (NAPSA), which
promulgates professional standards for
pretrial release and diversion programs,
does not endorse the use of electronic
monitoring in their 2020 standards.39

Their only mention of the practice
is to condemn the use of electronic
monitoring fees:
Pretrial supervision or conditions that
impose a cost on defendants (such as
supervision fees and costs for drug
testing or electronic monitoring) lead
to the same unfair and inequitable
results as financial bail. Jurisdictions
that impose fee-based pretrial
supervision or release conditions
should re-examine those practices.
Although the NAPSA standards do
not address EM specifically, many of
the programs we studied transgress the
NAPSA standards for pretrial programs.
For example, some jurisdictions did not
notify defense attorneys before revoking
EM and re-incarcerating participants
(NAPSA Standard 3.5(e)). NAPSA
standards also recommend consistent,
validated, and reliable risk assessments
that ensure that conditions of release are
commensurate with risk level (NAPSA
Standard 4.4). Many jurisdictions
surveyed did not use any particular
means to ensure that decisions about
who should and who should not be on
EM were consistent or fair, and indeed
many system administrators reported
that decisions could vary substantially
based on what judge someone had or
how much money they had. NAPSA
standards also stress the importance of
confidentiality of information about
accused people (NAPSA Standard 4.7).
Even though the information gathered
by GPS EM is among the most sensitive
information that could be gathered

Cages Without Bars | 36

about a person, no jurisdiction we
surveyed had explicit protections in
place to ensure that that data remained
confidential, was not shared with third
parties, and was not shared with
law enforcement.
Electronic monitoring programs
are overused and ineffective. Perhaps
most importantly, NAPSA standards
consistently reinforce those conditions
of release should be the least restrictive
possible to ensure a person’s appearance
in court and address identified,
individualized risks posed to public
safety. Electronic monitoring
as practiced in the jurisdictions
we surveyed cannot be said to meet
this requirement.
As discussed above, EM is an
extremely restrictive pretrial condition,
tantamount to incarceration inside
people’s own homes. National
standards counsel that such a restrictive
condition be used judiciously, and
only for a small number of accused
people. Instead, however, we found that
electronic monitoring was often not
part of a rational, careful, and measured
pretrial services plan at all; instead, it
was a part of the pretrial system that was
applied irregularly and indiscriminately.
Most jurisdictions we surveyed had
no formalized or standardized process
for determining who was placed on
electronic monitoring, how long they
were monitored, or what rules they had
to follow. Instead, the experiences of
people on EM were the result of a series
of ad hoc decisions by multiple system

actors, including judges, pretrial
officers, and sometimes the staff of
private companies.
National standards also require that
pretrial conditions be effective to achieve
the goals of reducing risk or increasing
appearance in court. Despite decades
of use in the pretrial context, no
evidence has emerged that electronic
monitoring is a successful intervention
in achieving those goals. Indeed, the
existing research strongly suggests that
electronic monitoring has no effect on
failure to appear or public safety risk. A
study of federal pretrial defendants in
New Jersey found no impact on failure
to appear rates for monitored people
compared to individuals with similar
risk profiles.40 A meta-study of the
effectiveness of electronic monitoring
in reducing failure to appear or new
criminal arrest pending case disposition
found the existing research to be
inconclusive.41 In their study of EM
in Cook County, Chicago Appleseed
Center for Fair Courts found that
EM made no appreciable difference
in failure-to-appear rates or rates
of re-arrest.42
Given the harm that is caused by
this technology and the lack of any
proven benefit, ultimately there are no
recommendations that can be applied
across the board to EM except for
one: eliminate electronic monitoring
altogether and channel the funds into
programs that keep people off the
path to incarceration and improve
their lives and their communities.

This is an aspiration that those of us
who produced this report share, but
one we also know is not going to be
achieved soon in many jurisdictions.
In the meantime, we must develop an
approach that will move us toward
the elimination of EM and reduce the
harm it currently causes. Based on our
research, there is no “best practice”
model for others to follow.
The failure of EM is not based simply
on a technical shortcoming or the lack
of evidence to support it. Rather, like
mass incarceration, the underlying logic
of punishment that informs electronic

Cages Without Bars | 37

monitoring dooms it to failure. We need
policies and technologies that support
human development and recognize
the humanity of people, not digital
prisons. Perhaps in some jurisdictions
a combination of grassroots
movement organizations and advocacy
organizations and progressive system
players can secure the elimination of
EM. We encourage this pathway and
would certainly applaud its success.
Accused people on pretrial EM
are entitled to the presumption of
innocence. But despite keeping accused
persons outside of jail, EM mirrors jail.

EM is an invasive tool that not only
surveils accused people but also their
family members. Many people felt like
law enforcement was living inside of
their homes and watching them. People
on RF devices have physical receivers
that must stay inside of the home at all
times connected to the telephone jack.
The boxes receive and store messages
from the supervising authority, and
many of the monitors themselves can
receive messages and calls at any time
of day or night.

Harm Reduction: Eliminating the Worst Electronic Monitoring Policies
Although we believe that reform strategies should be focused on ultimately ending pretrial EM, certain practices that we
documented were particularly punitive and should be eliminated immediately. Because there is little to no information sharing
between jurisdictions about EM practices, some system actors believe that features of their programs are the only way to
operate an EM program, when in fact other jurisdictions are comfortably operating without these features. To that end, here
are some basic principles that represent the least punitive applications of EM. We do not mean to suggest that an EM program
that meets all these requirements does not cause harm; rather, these are meant as examples of ways to reduce the harm that
local programs cause to accused people.43


EM programs should be rigorously tested for efficacy and used sparingly. There is no evidence that pretrial
electronic monitoring increases court appearance or decreases new arrests. Jurisdictions should rigorously study their
EM programs and be forced to justify their cost effectiveness for them to continue. Given the harm caused by electronic
monitoring, if a program does continue to exist, it should be used for very few people.


EM programs should allow free movement without restriction as a default and should not operate as house
arrest programs. Because GPS tracking allows for real-time monitoring of a person’s location to verify that they are
not engaged in activities that are unlawful or prohibited by their court orders, there is simply no reason to restrict
movement and require that a person stay in their home.


EM programs should not require onerous verification for monitored people to be given permission to
leave home. Monitored people need the flexibility to go about their lives with as little interference from electronic
monitoring as possible and should not be forced to disclose their monitored status to third parties. Requiring detailed
verification stands in the way of employment and other basic life activities and is unnecessary when GPS is available to
verify a person’s location.


EM programs should not charge fees. Multiple EM programs, including the largest EM program we studied in
Cook County, Illinois, do not assess any fees at all to monitored people. Fees make electronic monitoring accessible only
to people who have money, replicating the harms caused by other monetary conditions of release like bail, and likely
increasing racial disparities. If a jurisdiction decides to have an electronic monitoring program, it should bear the cost
of that program itself.


EM programs should give sentence credit for time on the monitor. Electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration,
not an alternative to incarceration. Individuals on EM, even those who have plentiful free movement, still have their
freedom constrained by being constantly watched, experience the stigma of wearing an ankle shackle, and must maintain
often daily contact with pretrial services officers regarding the equipment, false alarms, and movement requests. Like people
incarcerated in jail, people on electronic monitoring should be given time credit for their pretrial incarceration against any
future sentence.

Cages Without Bars | 38


EM programs should be run by government authorities, not private companies. The jurisdictions we studied
where private companies were the primary administrators of the programs (New Orleans and Baltimore) had the
highest fees and some of the harshest conditions of any of the jurisdictions studied. Like prisons and jails, it is
fundamentally unjust to allow a private company to profit from individuals’ incarceration, and private companies’
involvement should be minimized as much as possible.


EM programs should not jail monitored people for program violations without due process. Across jurisdictions,
interviewees noted that false alarms were common, and that movement requests often did not reach the correct person
to approve them in emergencies. Fundamentally, many violations represent lawful activity. Re-jailing people based only
on an alert or other signal from the device is unreliable and unfair. Monitored people should have the opportunity to
be represented by counsel and heard in court, they must be provided with all information about the basis of the alleged
violation, before being ordered to jail. Under no circumstances should law enforcement agencies, pretrial services
agencies, or private companies be given the power to decide to jail someone for a violation without approval from a
judicial officer.


Gathering and storage of personal information should be limited. Since the advent of GPS, monitors have
been gathering detailed location data, exposing the precise details of individuals’ movements and lives. Most
jurisdictions have no control over how this data is used. Individuals’ data can be bought and sold without their
knowledge or permission. This poses a major threat to the privacy and freedom of those who have been placed on EM.
Local authorities and companies should be held accountable for what happens to data gathered through EM and should
be committed to minimizing the commodification of that data without the knowledge and permission of the individual
who has been monitored.


EM programs should have clear criteria that incorporate due process to determine who is placed on EM, for
how long, and under what conditions. Electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration, and people should have
access to counsel and robust legal protections to ensure that they are not incarcerated unnecessarily and are given as
much freedom as possible.

Cages Without Bars | 39

Setting a Critical Agenda for Advocacy, Policy, and Litigation
As we see it, a critical agenda for electronic monitoring needs to consider multiple approaches. The pathway to implementing
this agenda will depend largely on who is engaging in these activities and the political terrain of the jurisdiction. In places where
decision makers are eager to enact progressive reform, alliances to push for radical change are possible. In more traditional law-andorder venues, it may remain a strictly oppositional engagement.
Change can happen in a few different arenas, including: (1) mobilization and data gathering; (2) changes to administrative policies;
(3) courtroom advocacy by defense attorneys; (4) litigation to allow courts to set human rights and due process limits on EM; and
(5) legislative advocacy to further regulate EM or disallow it altogether.


Mobilization and
Data Gathering
The key to any engagement on the
issue of electronic monitoring is
mobilization — finding a cohort of
people who will support and maintain
a critique and recognize that EM is
a form of incarceration. In places
like Cook County and San Francisco,
groups aiming to end money bond
or stop jail construction already
exist. However, the individuals in
these groups may not intuitively
grasp the gravity of the harm caused
electronic monitoring. Mobilization
may mean targeting impacted people
as well as activists to tell the stories
of people on EM and build support
for non-carceral alternatives. From
there, advocacy coalitions have made
several achievements across the country
to reduce the harm caused by EM
programs and work towards ending
them altogether.1 For example, No New
SF Jails, in the wake of their successful
campaign to close the jail at 850 Bryant,
found a side effect of their success to

Cages Without Bars | 40

be a dramatic increase in the use of EM.
Considering this, they have worked to
incorporate an anti-EM campaign into
their decarceration efforts.
Changes to administrative policies (and,
indeed, all anti-EM advocacy) can be
helped by gathering and making data
and policy and procedure documents
of local EM programs publicly available.
Data can help show racially disparate
impacts in admissions to electronic
monitoring or violations and can reveal
patterns in local use that can help
advocates know which political actors
to target. Freedom of Information
Act requests and collaboration with
journalists can help force government
agencies to disclose this data if they will
not do so voluntarily. Administrative
policy reform can help clarify rules and
decrease the total power some pretrial
officers have over monitored people’s
freedom. Knowing the rules of local
electronic monitoring programs can
help educate the public on what the
program is really like, while also holding
system actors more accountable to
follow the rules as written.

Changes to
Administrative Policies
and Local Government


One clear-cut path to reducing the harm
and expansion of EM is to target the
rules and regulations that determine
who goes on EM and what rules apply
to them while on the monitor. The
harm reduction goals outlined above
are logical places to start in trying to
change local EM policies. Given the
costs of electronic monitoring programs,
advocates may find allies among local
leaders wishing to decrease the amount
of money the government spends on the
criminal legal system. Although cheaper
than pretrial jail, EM is expensive
for governments. Given EM’s lack of
proven efficacy, activists may be able
to force system actors to justify their
programs’ existence in order to keep
their budgets.

Courtroom Advocacy by
Defense Attorneys
Along with policy changes, this is
the strategy most likely to provide
immediate relief to people impacted
by EM. Defense attorneys should push
for the least restrictive conditions of
release for their pretrial clients, with no
conditions being the default. Should the
court decide EM will be implemented,
defense attorneys should advocate to
reduce the harm done by these devices.
This could include urging an increase in
the amount of non-restricted movement
available to their client, advocating for
movement rights for family obligations
and medical issues, advocating against
fees, and ensuring due process for clients
by fighting against unlawful searches or
seizures and zealously fighting against
re-incarceration of their clients. Lawyers
can also advocate that a monitor be used
for as little time as possible, and the
monitor be removed after a period of
demonstrated compliance.

Lawsuits have been a promising avenue
of attack for reducing the harm caused
by electronic monitoring programs.
In California, in Edwards vs. Leaders
in Community Alternatives, Inc.,2 a
monitored person is suing the private
company that operates EM in Alameda
County for extortion because of its
predatory fee structure and is also
suing the county for damages. In
Massachusetts, in Commonwealth vs.
Eric Norman, a court held that GPS
tracking data from pretrial conditions
could not be used as evidence of a crime
in a separate case.

Legislative Advocacy

Illinois passed a law in 2019 requiring
collection of data from its electronic
monitoring programs for people
post-prison.4 A bill to fully eliminate
the use of electronic monitoring in
the parole context passed the Illinois
House, but not the Senate, the same
year.5 More recently, the Pretrial Fairness
Act, passed as part of Public Act 1010652, eliminates money bail, and also
guarantees movement for individuals
on electronic monitoring, statutorily
ensures sentencing credit for electronic
monitoring, and makes it impossible
to charge “escape” from electronic
monitoring unless a monitored person
has been out of compliance with rules
for at least 48 hours.6
Legislative advocacy is the most farreaching possible reform and can change
the practices of every local electronic
monitoring program in a state. It is also
a key avenue for eliminating the practice
of electronic monitoring entirely.

In Illinois, some gains have been
achieved through state-level legislation.3

1 MediaJustice, History in the Making: Illinois Bill to Eliminate Use of Electronic Monitoring Passes Vote in the House,
MediaJustice (Apr. 30, 2019),; Stephanie Altman, Illinois Legislative Session Ushers in Bold Progress Toward Equity,
Shriver Center on Poverty Law (Jun. 26, 2019)
2 Edwards v. Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc., No. 20-15070 (9th Cir. Apr. 2, 2021).
3 Ill. Pub. Act 101-0231 (effective Jan. 1, 2020)
4 HB 386, 101st Ill. Gen Assembly (Aug. 9, 2019)
5 HB 1115, 101st Ill. Gen. Assembly (Jan. 13, 2021, passed in the House)
6 See HB 3443, 102nd Gen. Assembly (Jun. 25, 2021)

Cages Without Bars | 41


In many of the jurisdictions we studied,
electronic monitoring has been used
for many years, and its usage is steadily
increasing. Surprisingly, the rules,
systems, and type of technologies used
in EM programs vary considerably
in each jurisdiction. Despite these
differences, the common thread of all
EM regimes is that they are punitive,
costly, and do not provide services
or support to accused people. The
monitors hinder attempts by accused
people to maintain employment
or income, to access healthcare, to
secure housing, or to participate in
the preparation of an effective legal
defense. Moreover, in searching for

Cages Without Bars | 42

data and information for this report,
we found very little accountability for
maintaining data and information
systems, accounting for expenditure,
writing periodic evaluative reports, and
regularly upgrading systems to ensure
some efficiency of performance. A
particularly acute aspect of this absence
of data is that most jurisdictions
were unable to provide racial and
demographic data for people on
electronic monitoring.
Although the use of electronic
monitoring continues to expand, based
on the lived experience of many people
who have been on EM, these devices

offer no real avenue of progress for an
individual or the criminal legal system.
Moreover, national bodies that focus
on pretrial issues like NAPSA and the
American Association for Probation
and Parole do not endorse the use of
EM. Given these realities, we hope
that this report will inspire more active
engagement around the use of EM,
compel authorities to be accountable
for the policies they implement and
fund, and catalyze more effective usages
of taxpayer dollars than continuing the
use of EM. Ultimately, based on our
research, EM is not an alternative to
incarceration but an alternative form
of incarceration.


1 “Pretrial EM” refers to electronic monitoring imposed on an accused person after the person is arrested but before conviction.
2 Pew Charitable Trusts, Examining Electronic Monitoring Technologies (Nov. 2015)
3 Michelle Alexander, The Newest Jim Crow, N.Y. Times (Nov. 8, 2018),
4 The Safety & Justice Challenge (last visited Jul. 13, 2022).
5 Robert S. Gable, The Ankle Bracelet is History: An Informal Review of the Birth and Death of a Monitoring Technology, 27(2)
J. of Offender Monitoring, 4-8 (2015)
6 Trent Cornish, The Many Purposes of Location Monitoring, 74 Federal Probation 2 (2010),
sites/default/files/74_2_2_0.pdf; Illinois Supreme Court Comm’n on Pretrial Practices, Final Report (Apr. 2020),
7 Emma Anderson, The Evolution of Electronic Monitoring Devices, NPR, (May 24, 2015), https://www.npr.
org/2014/05/22/314874232/the-history-of-electronic-monitoring-devices; Marc Renzema, Remembering Kirk Gable, 26
J. of Offender Monitoring 5 (Fall/Winter 2013),
8 Electronic Monitoring Turns Home into Jail, N.Y. Times, (Feb. 12, 1984),
9 Jyoti Belur et al., A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Electronic Monitoring of Offenders, 68 J. of Crim. Justice 101686
(May-June, 2020),
10 K.T. Wolff et al., The Impact of Location Monitoring Among U.S. Pretrial Defendants in the District of New Jersey, 81 Federal
Probation 8-14 (2017).
11 See SCRAM Systems (last visited
Jul. 13, 2022).
12 Pew Charitable Trusts, supra note 2.
13 MediaJustice, Electronic Monitoring Companies: Who’s Making Money from Ankle Shackles?

Cages Without Bars | 43

14 IoT Business News, The Electronic Offender Monitoring Market in Europe and North America to Reach € 1.3 Million in
2021, (Feb. 11, 2020),US%24%201.2%20
15 Michele Alexander, The War on Drugs and the New Jim Crow, Race, Poverty & the Environment (Spring 2010) https://
16 Sarah Staudt, 10 Facts About Pretrial Electronic Monitoring in Cook County, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts (Sept.
17 The Appeal, Risk Assessment: Explained, (Dec. 14, 2019)
18 The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Six Things to Know About Algorithm-Based
Decision-Making Tools,
19 Benjamin Weiser, To Avoid Jail Before Trial, Epstein Offers Up His Mansion and Jet for Bail, N.Y. Times (Jul. 11, 2019)
20 The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, supra note 18.
21 See Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff’s Daily Report (Jan. 12, 2022)
wp-content/uploads/2022/01/CCSO_BIU_CommunicationsCCDOC_v1_2022_01_12.pdf (the Cook County population
number was drawn from the sheriff’s website which reports the EM population daily. We used the number for January 12, 2022);
See also Cook County Chief Judge’s Office, Circuit Court of Cook County Adult Probation Department
Home Confinement Unit Pretrial Curfew Population by Charge Type—1/12/2022 (Jan. 12, 2022) https://www.
-%202022-01-12%20Final.pdf?ver=JOEDQPiY3h92KwpoG-rI9A%3d%3d (Cook County has a second EM program run by the
Chief Judge’s Office; that information for January 12, 2022); See also, Alicia Virani, Pretrial Electronic Monitoring
in Los Angeles County, 2015-2021, UCLA Criminal Justice Program (2022)
PDFs/Criminal_Justice_Program/Electronic_Monitoring_in_Los_Angeles_Report-FINAL.pdf (the number for Los Angeles was
obtained from a report by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles); (the remaining figures were estimates provided
by system actors we interviewed. We were unable to obtain estimates for San Francisco’s program).
22 A few exceptions are worth noting. Baltimore City has a jail release program that is run by their Department of Public Safety
that allows jail officials to release accused people on EM without the judge ordering EM. In Cook County, pretrial services can
order electronic monitoring based on a risk assessment score without a judge explicitly approving EM, though the judge has the
ability to take a person off pretrial services electronic monitoring if they wish to.
23 See also APPR, About the Public Safety Assessment, (last visited Jul. 13,
2022) (more information on public safety assessments can be found here).
24 In Cook County, a recent law change requires that all individuals on EM pretrial be given movement to spread out on at least 2
days to fulfill activities of daily living. The Sheriff now allows some participants periods of scheduled free movement where they do
not have to get specific permission for each location they visit.
25 See 730 ILCS 5/5-8A-4.1.
26 Personal communication with Ms. Jones, May 11, 2021.

Cages Without Bars | 44

27 This is the default. However, San Francisco also may apply a further restrictive order that carries a more restrictive form of
EM (24-hour confinement and only court-ordered movement). The San Francisco Public Defender estimated this was the case for
around 10% of people on EM.
28 Alessandro De Giorgi, Five Theses on Mass Incarceration, 42 Social Justice 140 (2015).
29 Special Series: Guilty and Charged: State by State Court Fees, NPR, (May 19, 2014) https://www.npr.
30 Scott Morris, Lawsuit Alleges Ankle Monitoring Practices Are Akin to Extortion, East Bay Express, (Aug. 8, 2018) https://
31 Mike Perlstein, Orleans Judge Accused of Steering Ankle Bracelet Business to Company Owned by Former Law Partner, WWLTV, (May 28, 2020)
32 Cheryl Corley, The COVID-19 Struggle in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, NPR (Apr. 13, 2020) https://www.npr.
33 The one exception was an interview with a representative of a private EM company; the conflict of interest in that
conversation, however, led us to discount that interviewee’s positive evaluation of the program given the unanimity of other
interviewees’ opinions.
34 The one exception was an interview with a representative of a private EM company; the conflict of interest in that
conversation, however, led us to discount that interviewee’s positive evaluation of the program given the unanimity of other
interviewees’ opinions.
35 National Institute of Justice, Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism, U.S. Department of
Justice (2011)
36 Erin Eife & Gabriella Kirk, And You Will Wait . . .: Carceral Transportation in Electronic Monitoring as Part of the Punishment
Process, Punishment and Society (2020).
37 Kate Weisburd et al., Electronic Prisons: The Operation of Ankle Monitoring in the Criminal Legal System, GWU Law School
Public Law Research Paper (Sept. 2021)
38 Staudt, supra note 16.
39 National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, Standards on Pretrial Release: Revised 2020 (2020),
40 K. T. Wolff et al., The Impact of Location Monitoring Among U.S. Pretrial Defendants in the District of New Jersey, Federal
Probation, 81(3), 8-14 (2017).
41 K. Betchel et al., A Meta-Analytic Review of Pretrial Research: Risk Assessment, Bond Type, and Interventions, 42 American J.
of Criminal Justice 443-467(2017).
42 Staudt, supra note 16 at 14.
43 See MediaJustice, Guidelines for Electronic Monitoring Programs, Challenging E-Carceration Project, mediajustice.
org/resource/electronic-monitoring-guidelines/ (last visited Jul. 13, 2022).
Photo credit: Page 12, Micol Seigel

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