The results of pretrial RATs may help judges or magistrates determine supervision conditions they assign for pretrial release. For more serious charges, one of these release conditions is often electronic monitoring, or e-carceration.
Electronic monitoring means that someone is physically out of jail before their trial but has their location tracked at all times via an ankle bracelet, GPS monitor, or phone app that tracks their location at all times.
Due to the restrictions placed on those being monitored, electronic monitoring is also known as e-carceration:1James Kilgore: What is E-Carceration?, Challenging E-Carceration, MediaJustice The physical jail becomes an electronic jail in our homes and communities, severely limiting where someone can go within certain boundaries and punitively tracking a person’s behavior.
Like the use of pretrial RATs themselves, officials may see electronic monitoring as a positive, technological solution to overcrowded jails2William Bales, David Scheppegrell, Matthew DeMichele, Carl Wicklund, and Joe Russo: Examining Electronic Monitoring Technologies, PEW Charitable Trusts and a cost-saving mechanism for corrections departments.3Matt Black and Russell Smith: Electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system, Australian Institute of Criminology
However, the choice between physical jail or digital jail is a false dichotomy. Both severely limit the freedoms of those under state surveillance, and both criminalize and punish the existence of Black, Brown, immigrant, and poor communities.
E-carceration places much of the burden on the accused, often including the cost of expensive GPS monitoring devices.4Ava Kofman: Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants into Debt, ProPublica
Electronic monitoring also raises the ethical issue of constant surveillance5Matt Black and Russell Smith: Electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system, Australian Institute of Criminology for those subjected to it.
In some counties we interviewed, people who would otherwise be released on their own or after paying a bond are now released under GPS monitoring instead. Several jurisdictions in our interviews said that the amount of electronic monitoring in use had increased following the implementation of a RAT, as they release more individuals pretrial but only under surveillance.
For instance, in our interviews, Lee County, Florida,6Interview with Media Mobilizing Project, 4/4/2017. See Interview Summary for more information and Santa Clara County, California,7Interview with Media Mobilizing Project, 9/15/2017. See Interview Summary for more information both stated that the rates of electronic monitoring have increased following the implementation of a RAT.
Many pretrial RAT decision-making frameworks recommend e-carceration for high-level offenses.
A high risk score on a RAT can lead to a recommendation for electronic monitoring, which then leads to many more chances to make simple mistakes and accidentally reoffend.
For example, Chicago, which uses the PSA, detains over half of those with high risk scores, and most of those who are released either have high bonds or electronic monitoring.8Ethan Corey: How a Tool to Help Judges May Be Leading Them Astray, The Appeal
Learn more via the #NoDigitalPrisons project: Challenging E-Carceration.9Media Justice: #NoDigitalPrisons project: Challenging E-Carceration, 2018