Prison populations have skyrocketed over the past 50 years. Currently, 2.2 million people are incarcerated in facilities throughout the United States, an increase of 500 percent with longer sentences contributing to that massive growth.
More prisoners mean an outlay of more money. In 1980, the cost of housing them was close to $20 billion (in current dollars). By 2015, that number more than quadrupled to an astounding $87 billion.
Ankle monitors seemed to be an affordable alternative whether someone is getting out of prison or awaiting trial after posting bail. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, use has increased by 60 percent between 2005 and 2015 with more than 125,000 adorned with the bulky “anklet.” Corporations who provide this equipment are profiting to the point that the “community-corrections market” is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country
State and city entities with budgets stretched thin find themselves covering most of the costs. To alleviate the financial expenditures, they effectively charge “rent” for a detainee waiting for trial, regardless of the length of time. Ankle monitors represent cost savings. However, expensive GPS monitoring is part of the overall package. Some organizations choose to operate their own programs with staff and rent the devices. Others outsource to private companies.
Yet, finding these and other alternatives to lengthy prison stays, and the associated costs shifts the financial burden to those facing charges or convicted of crimes.
Once the monitor is placed on pretrial defendants and parolees, they must make timely payments for its use. Courtroom proceedings often do not factor the ability to pay for monitoring before a judge rules on it, nor can they control the costs. That is left up to private companies.
Missing installments on an ankle monitor carries serious consequences, specifically the possibility of rearrest and reincarceration for many who were never consulted on their “largesse” or lack thereof.