Electronic monitoring isn’t kid-friendly

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Other Writing
Publication Date: 
July 20, 2017

Across California, young people in the juvenile justice system are routinely tracked 24/7 with GPS ankle monitors that are often touted as “better than jail.” That’s too low a standard for a technology used on children.

new report issued by UC Berkeley School of Law and the East Bay Community Law Center, which we helped draft, suggests that electronic monitoring may worsen the very problems that juvenile courts try to remedy. Rather than further rehabilitation, it often leads to jail for technical rule violations and traps young people in the system longer.

Electronic monitoring is harsh and a poor fit for youth, is disproportionately used for youth of color and should be reserved only for certain serious cases.

We wrote this report because we regularly saw clients sent back to jail for violating inflexible monitoring rules. One client, a 13 year-old boy, was arrested for stealing a backpack, his first offense, and was put on an electronic monitor for three months. This meant staying inside his house except when going to school. He wound up going to jail for violating monitoring rules seven times during the roughly two years on probation. Every time he went to jail, he fell behind in school, missed counseling appointments and lost job and mentoring opportunities.

Most other California counties have similarly stringent rules. Not surprisingly, rule violations are frequent, and young people cycle in and out of jail for technical violations.

Their families also struggle to pay daily monitoring fees of $3.50 to $30 per day. Some counties charge additional fees for applying to the program or moving, on top of fees for probation, juvenile hall and drug testing. The costs add up and are often impossible to pay. An important bill before the Legislature, Senate Bill 190, would eliminate these costs.

Read the full piece at The Sacramento Bee