With jail crowding like never before and celebrities like Lindsey Lohan being sentenced to house arrest, ankle monitors are more popular than ever. But are those sentenced to use ankle monitors living the easy life? Not by any measure, but this alternative to incarceration is still generally better than going to jail or prison.
Ankle Monitors in San Diego
In San Diego County, two types of electronic ankle bracelets are commonly used. SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) is a monitored device operated by a private company which is ordered by the court before someone is convicted of a crime to ensure the defendant doesn’t consume alcohol. It is often used in lieu of a bail increase for alcohol-related offenses such as DUI.
CPAC (County Parole and Alternative Custody) uses both GPS and alcohol monitoring and is the house arrest program run by the Sheriff as an alternative to jail for sentenced defendants. They will only supervise someone whose job and residence is in San Diego County. Even a minor violation can result in the offender being sent to jail to serve the rest of the mandated sentence.
The Benefits of Ankle Monitors
The most obvious benefit of going under house arrest is the simple fact that you aren’t stuck behind bars. Depending on the specific rules you are bound by, you may be able to go to work, go shopping and otherwise live your life as you normally would with a few restrictions. Even if you are required to stay in your home, you still have the comfort of your own bed and can see friends and family at will, luxuries you would never have behind bars.
For society, sentencing offenders to use ankle monitors can save tax payers millions over incarceration costs while still providing tax payers a sense of security, knowing those using the devices are being closely monitored.
Ankle Bracelet Problems
Despite the many benefits, it is important to remember that you are still being punished and monitored. The technology used by these monitors is subject to error as well. In fact, Wisconsin sex offenders who are required to wear ankle monitors while on parole constantly report the GPS on the devices failing, providing their parole officers with false data about their location. As a result, they frequently end up behind bars for violating the terms of their parole, despite never having left their living rooms. “There are times when I’m afraid to leave whatever room I’m in, even to go to the bathroom,” said one offender. One convict begged to be returned to prison because he claimed he at least knew what was to be expected of him there.
The device’s batteries must be charged daily too and if you forget to charge it or if the battery begins to fail, it will send a signal to the your probation or parole officer, which could result in your being sent back to prison. That means a massive power outage could be a serious problem for your electric monitoring program.
Even if you don’t have a faulty device, you can still have problems when you are required to go somewhere in an emergency without your parole officer’s permission. Wired shares the example of one person who was arrested for visiting the hospital after cutting his hand. This is because those sentenced to house arrest are not allowed to remove their ankle monitors, even for emergency medical procedures like MRIs or CT scans that cannot be performed with the bracelets on. In fact, many people who have undergone emergency medical care in Vista were then required to attend a probation violation hearing as a result of the EMTs cutting off their ankle monitor while they were on probation.
Holding Down a Job
While probation and parole violations related to monitor errors and emergencies will probably not be ruled violations in court hearings, especially with a good criminal lawyer at your side, the fact that you are required to spend time behind bars awaiting your hearing could cost you your job.
Being stuck wearing an ankle monitor can make it even more difficult to obtain a job in the first place as it will serve as a visible signs of an offender’s criminal past and it will prevent you from varying your routine without risking being sent back to behind bars. Because you must pay for your own electronic monitoring (anywhere from $15 to $20 a day), the loss of a job could also result in the violation of probation or parole and a return to incarceration. This is a major problem with the ankle monitor program as it makes the entire system difficult for anyone to stick with if they are not already wealthy enough to support themselves without leaving the home.
Costs of Ankle Monitors
Additionally, few people are aware that many people are given monitors as opposed to being kept in jail while waiting trial. Unlike bail though, the cost of a house arrest ankle bracelet is not returned if you are found innocent of a crime.
And while these devices may be less expensive than locking prisoners up, purchasing and upkeeping the devices as well as arresting an incarcerating anyone whose GPS signal reports a violation is far more costly to taxpayers than simply allowing someone to serve probation or parole without a digital monitor.
The Best Solution is True Freedom
Going through the ankle monitor program is generally better than being locked up. But that’s not always the case if doing so means your probation period would be longer than the sentence you might otherwise serve behind bars. That’s especially true if a malfunction on the part of the monitor or a minor error on your part results in a probation violation that ends with your being put in jail. That’s why it is important to discuss all of your options with your lawyer before deciding whether you want to accept probation or serve your time in an institution.
Of course, ideally, you won’t be incarcerated or put on house arrest with an ankle bracelet at all, which is something your lawyer may or may not be able to help you with -by seeing if you might be able to completely beat the charges and, if not, then by negotiating the best possible plea bargain with the district attorney. In some cases, work furlough might be a preferable solution to either incarceration or house arrest depending on your situation.
If you have been accused of a crime, please contact Peter Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Monique