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Pandemic Leads to Increased House Arrests, Electronic Monitoring

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020   

PORTLAND, Ore. -- House arrest might seem like a good alternative to incarceration, especially during a pandemic, but it comes with its own costs.

Ankle shackles are outfitted for electronic monitoring, which concerns advocates for people who are detained. Babatunde Azubuike, programs coordinator for the Portland-based organization Freedom to Thrive, said technology like this can be a Trojan horse.

"It looks really nice on the outside and really great," Azubuike said. "But when you open it up and get inside, it's white supremacy, it's capitalism and patriarchy, and state control."

Azubuike said some law enforcement agencies are using the pandemic as justification to expand this kind of incarceration. Freedom to Thrive, along with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Media Justice and the YaYa Network, are jointly hosting a webinar today (Wednesday) at noon (Pacific Time), to educate people about the use of electronic monitoring.

A Pew study found about 125,000 people were supervised with electronic devices in 2015, up 140% from a decade earlier.

Azubuike pointed out there are penalties people might not think about when choosing house arrest over incarceration, such as paying for the monitor, which can cost up to $400 a month.

"If you miss those payments, you're out of compliance and then, that can be cause for you to go right back into jail or prison," Azubuike said. "It puts you in this position where, again, people are being penalized for being poor."

Azubuike said decisions on electronic monitoring and how it's implemented happen on the local level.

"I think the best way to push back is to definitely get involved in a lot of these budget fights around how the police budgets are spent, and where your local money is going for these technologies," Azubuike added.

Disclosure: Freedom to Thrive contributes to our fund for reporting on Criminal Justice, Immigrant Issues, LGBTQIA Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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