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Electronic monitoring should not carry fee

Gregory Shields, director of Cook County Sheriff's electronic home monitoring program in Illinois, shows an electronic ankle bracelet used for home detention.
Gregory Shields, director of Cook County Sheriff's electronic home monitoring program in Illinois, shows an electronic ankle bracelet used for home detention. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

I support the comments made by Robin Campbell on electronic monitoring in his letter, "The right way to do pretrial detention” (Jan. 6). Mr Campbell rightly points out the need to get as many people as possible out of jail, but he also correctly stresses that pretrial release should not include financial penalties in the form of fees for electronic monitoring.

Our project, Challenging E-Carceration, focuses on the impact of electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system. Not only does monitoring often have financial penalties, the conditions imposed under electronic monitoring with house arrest can often mimic being incarcerated, albeit in your own home. Across the country, people placed on electronic monitors report being denied movement from their house, being refused employment or housing because they are on a monitor, even being banned from doing basic necessities like taking out the garbage or checking the mail because of restrictions.

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The idea of getting people out of jail while they await adjudication is to help them hold their lives together — work, go to school, remain part of their families — not transfer the jail experience to their living room. So while the effort by Baltimore County authorities to reduce jail numbers is to be lauded, they should make sure they do it the "right way," with resorting to what we call E-Carceration — depriving people of their liberty by means of technology.

James Kilgore, Champaign, Ill.

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The writer is research scholar at the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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