The Georgia Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a law that requires some on the sex offense registry to wear electronic monitors—for life. The ‘ankle monitors’ record and transmit physical location information in real time to the government or its agents. Oral arguments in the case are not yet available online but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a news article in which several justices sound skeptical of this drastic measure. A decision is expected within several months.
Use of such electronic monitoring devices is soaring, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. A go-to source of information about this facet of the growing ‘surveillance state’ is James Kilgore’s website, The Voice of the Monitored, which takes as its mission, “Keeping an eye on the monitors.” Kilgore has deep knowledge of electronic monitoring and makes a strong argument that it should be legally classified as a form of incarceration. More of all this, below. –Bill Dobbs
Excerpts: The Georgia Sex Offender Registry Review Board is responsible for making risk assessments of sex offenders on probation and those about to be released from prison. “Level One” offenders pose little danger to the public. “Level Two” offenders have an increased likelihood they will re-offend. Level three offenders are labeled “sexually dangerous predators.” For the rest of their lives, they must wear an ankle monitor that alerts the local sheriff if the device is tampered with or the signal is lost.
“The point is to prevent future recidivism and it’s not punitive,” answered Rebecca Dobras, the assistant attorney general who argued in favor of the law. “What it’s supposed to do is allow the offender to know he’s being monitored.”
But an attorney for a convicted sex offender argued that requiring ankle monitors was nothing more than a way to extend punishment beyond the end of a sentence. Attorney Mark Yurachek also told the justices that his client, Kenneth Berzett, has to commit two hours a day to charging the monitor on his leg; has to call the local sheriff’s office when he enters a building with a metal roof and the signal is lost; and has to pay for the ankle monitor.
Dobras didn’t know how much offenders were charged but described the cost as a “minor thing.” Justice David Nahmias said asking for $3 or $4 a day — as much as $120 a month — was not “a minor thing” for some people. “It looks like now we’ve gone to a system where we just want to collect some money” but offer no counseling that might help a sex offender, Justice Robert Benham said. MORE:
Voice of the Monitored
Keeping an eye on the monitors
This website focuses on electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system. Each day about 200,000 people in the U.S. wake up with an ankle bracelet strapped to their leg because of some encounter with the criminal justice system. This website will be about their experience and the ways in which electronic monitoring is becoming an essential part of criminal justice in the U.S. and other parts of the world. MORE: