Wisconsin Sees a Doubling in Failed GPS Monitoring Program Since 2013
The use of GPS monitoring for people on parole is ineffective, expensive, and oftentimes sends people to jail for doing nothing wrong.
In May 2017 alone, there were 52 arrests for wearers of ankle bracelets. Of these, 13 were a direct result of a malfunction in the GPS bracelet - with no violations of parole whatsoever. In other words, a quarter of those arrested did absolutely nothing wrong.
But in spite of cases like these, the Wisconsin state government has stood idly by as the use of GPS monitoring has roughly doubled in Wisconsin since 2013. This has led to a massive waste of Wisconsin tax dollars and lots of unnecessary jail time for people who did nothing wrong.
While it’s surely valuable for incarcerated people to be able to go to work and see their family while on parole, a much better way to do that would be simply to incarcerate less people by legalizing marijuana and implementing community control over the police. At the very least, we should place people on parole without any GPS tracking. There are plenty of ways to combat mass incarceration without replacing it with bad technologies like ankle bracelets.
Instead, unlike many states like Wisconsin’s neighbor, Minnesota, which don’t have a GPS monitoring system, Wisconsin dishes out $9.7 million every year to the flawed system.
These arrests of innocent people are in part a result of the poor GPS reception of the ankle bracelets, an issue that is especially pronounced in rural areas. Due to these technological errors, many innocent people are locked up for violating their parole because the GPS signaled they went to a prohibited place, even if they didn’t actually go there. These arrests further damage their family and social life, as well as their opportunity for employment.
And it could get even worse. A bill was proposed in Wisconsin in February that would punish bracelet wearers with a felony if they intentionally failed to charge their ankle bracelets, which targets people with low incomes and long work hours and expands our epidemic of mass incarceration. This draconian move could tarnish the lives and career opportunities for many people who wear the bracelets.
We don’t need to spend $9.7 million a year on this failed system. Instead, we should spend our funds to provide services, economic and mental health resources to our communities of color in order to give people power, not chains.
In order to make any progress, we have to Build our collective understanding and Build collective analysis to advocate for better collaborative solutions.
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