A Look Inside the Lives of Home Imprisonment
Private companies have developed a strategy to incarcerate individuals for their alleged crimes by strapping GPS shackles on their ankles.
The use for these devices have more than doubled in the past decade. The largest providers of these devices in the United States are BI Incorporated and Securus Technologies. Both companies had histories of unethical profiting and exploiting criminalized populations. They’re also the targets of protests and court cases.
Activists have criticized the utilization of these companies and their contribution to mass incarceration, with a disproportionate rate of low-income people of color receiving these devices. E-carceration shifted sites and costs of incarceration from state facilities to communities of color that have already been suppressed by mass incarceration. These monitors are commonly used as conditions for pre-trial release or post-conviction supervision, such as probation or parole. Recently, they have expanded the use for juveniles, senior citizens, people accused or convicted from DUIs or domestic violence, immigrants preparing for legal procedures, and those in drug-related programs.
An individual with the device is placed in a neighborhood, block, or house and are programmed with various levels of control. The device keeps them out of certain places by alarm or anyway that will signal law enforcement. The device also interferes with the individual’s privacy. The GPS monitors contain location tracking data and were pointed out as why the devices were considered as a form of surveillance. The individual is also responsible for fees for these devices that range from $3-35 a day, along with a $100-200 charge for setup. Often those incarcerated are unemployed, therefore they had to rely on family and friends for finances. A consequence from these companies for not making these payments can be an additional charge or getting locked in jail.
Jackson couldn’t reduce the rate and ended up having to sell his car and move him and his daughters out of their apartment.
Two of the daughters had to live with a family friend and the third one lived with Jackson’s brother-in-law. Jackson still tried to get the family together for a meal, but their separated living situation made it extremely difficult.
Here are some testimonies from people who were exploited by an agency called LCA:
Kyler Wilson, 40, has a job at a Hotel and works as a barber on the side. The day he began the job at the hotel was the day he started getting monitored by SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring) and getting GPS tracked by the LCA (Leaders of Community Alternatives). He pled guilty to driving-related charges and was sentenced to 180 days of alcohol monitoring and GPS tracking by LCA, with counseling included. He was fined $4,509. If he missed a deadline for the payments, he would be sent back to jail. Wilson was required to pay $650 a month to LCA, which amounted to 30% of his income. To afford the LCA charges, he had to borrow money from his father, who’s income came from social security and veteran’s benefits. The situation was inconvenient for Wilson - if he had a staff meeting that ran late, LCA still expected him to go home on time. Being released from LCA brought him a significant sigh of relief.
Robert Jackson, 38, was working as a forklift operator. While he was serving his sentence, he was alerted that his wife passed away unexpectedly of meningitis. They have three daughters and the situation left Jackson devastated. The judge ordered Jackson’s release on his own recognizance and contracted with LCA electronic monitoring. He was ordered to pay $550 the following day, while worrying about arranging his wife’s funeral. He didn’t have the money, so he had to borrow money from his parents, friends, and siblings. After the payment, the LCA charged Jackson $250 a week, which represented at least half of the pay he takes home. He didn’t want to work after his wife’s funeral in order to best care for their daughters but had to in order to pay his debt to LCA. Jackson couldn’t reduce the rate and ended up having to sell his car and move him and his daughters out of their apartment. Two of the daughters had to live with a family friend and the third one lived with Jackson’s brother-in-law. Jackson still tried to get the family together for a meal, but their separated living situation made it extremely difficult. Eventually, he was able to make the final payment to LCA.
William Edwards, 38, works part-time by providing home health care and janitorial services. He was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device as a condition for pre-trial release. He was enrolled with LCA and had to pay a $150 enrollment fee and $25.50 a day fee for the monitoring. He couldn’t afford the money, but the case manager told him that someone from LCA would get in contact with him to discuss reducing the rate. Edwards called LCA several times to discuss the reduction and had to present numerous documents, especially information about his girlfriends financial situation. The situation also made it difficult for Edwards to work. After getting through the inconveniences, LCA reduced the rate to $17, which is still a struggle for Edwards. He tried to contact LCA for another reduction and didn’t get a response back. He had to contact his then-supervisor from Costa County Deputy Public Defenders office for assistance to reach LCA. Documents reached LCA and the case manager reached back to Edwards, offering him a reduction to $10 a day. With the help of family and friends, Edwards was finally able to pay off the device. The total was over $1,300 for 3 months of service. The situation resulted in extreme stress for Edwards and made his medical condition worse.
The LCA claimed that the policies and practices that they’re clients face follow the contact that they have with Alameda County. However, California law states that defendants shouldn’t have to be paid more than they could afford. Lawsuits are being filed to take on LCA and provide relief for those that were affected by its control.