Journal Commentary Separates Electronic Monitoring from Incarceration
The coronavirus global pandemic has impacted the criminal justice world in many unprecedented ways, affecting cities, counties and state community supervision, in-custody facilities, treatment providers, and more. This unique and challenging situation is forcing us all to adapt, and community corrections agencies are facing challenges around how to strengthen their communities and ensure requirements are still met and progress is made.
Joe Russo, a researcher and a longtime director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center at University of Denver, recently penned a commentary in The Journal of Offender Monitoring that debunks the concept that electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration. In “Electronic Monitoring: Control Not Incarceration,” Russo says equating electronic monitoring to incarceration not only minimizes the effect incarceration has on offenders and families but curbs the use of electronic monitoring when it can be helpful and appropriate. Russo argues that the use of electronic monitoring is more humane than incarceration, and agencies using electronic monitoring should have clear policies in place, “that are consistent with best practices.”
“Without the option of a community-based alternative that includes electronic monitoring, courts, parole boards and other authorities will be more inclined to continue over-using detention and incarceration.” – Joe Russo
Cities, counties and states can utilize electronic monitoring systems that allow agencies to apply the least restrictive or appropriate option to support compliance to conditions of release. By releasing individuals to community supervision with the support of these innovative tools, supervising officers gain a much better understanding of how a person is doing in the community. The individual can also live in the community, where they can support themselves and their families.
Advantages of electronic monitoring versus incarceration:
Medical Health: Jails and prisons are not healthy environments, more so during the pandemic, and electronic monitoring is an option many authorities have used effectively to transition offenders to community supervision while monitoring compliance to conditions of release. The rate of cases in prisons is more than four times the rate found in the general population and the mortality rate in prisons is twice as high as in the general population after adjusting for inmate demographics.
Mental Health: Confinement is also detrimental to mental health, and electronic monitoring allows offenders to be in the community where these issues can be monitored and managed. The suicide rate in jails (46 per 100,000) is much greater than that found in the general population (around 14 per 100,000).
Violence: Electronic monitoring reduces exposure to violence more prevalent in prisons and jails than community life. Approximately 21% of male inmates were physically assaulted during a six-month period and an estimated 13% of all inmates are gang members.
Substance Abuse: By releasing offenders to electronic monitoring, individuals managing substance abuse issues can better maintain treatment regimens. Former inmates are far more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the general population and the greatest risk is during the first two weeks post-release.
Economics: When individuals are diverted to electronic monitoring, savings to jurisdictions are well documented. Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11%, annual employment by 9 weeks, and annual earnings by 40%.
Impact on Children: Allowing offenders to be released on electronic monitoring maintains critical family connections that help stabilize individuals and reduce criminal behavior. Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11%, annual employment by 9 weeks, and annual earnings by 40%.
To read the complete commentary, visit The Journal of Offender Monitoring (December 2020) https://civicresearchinstitute.com/jom.html
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