The Cons of Traditional Ankle Monitoring

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Ankle monitors first came into development in the 1960s by the work of social psychologists. Since the 1980s, ankle monitoring devices have been widely used in the United States criminal justice system as an alternative to incarceration. Today, the devices are used for a variety of purposes such as parole or probation monitoring, pretrial supervision, house arrest or alcohol consumption monitoring. Electronic ankle monitors offer an alternative to incarceration when reintegration into society is in the best interest of the offender.

These typically bulky, heavy and pager-like devices, despite their increased use over recent decades, have only seen minimal technical improvement. On the contrary, devices such as smartphones and watches are constantly being improved with the latest technology to create a sleeker, more discreet model. Like any form of technology, monitors are prone to the common technical glitch. But unlike the easy fix to our everyday-use electronics, glitches or errors caused by ankle monitor manufacturing can put the offender’s life and probationary status in jeopardy.

A 2011 round of ankle monitoring tests run by California judiciary officials found that batteries often died early, the tamper-proof cases would crack, tampering alerts often failed, and GPS locations would drift as much as three miles. False errors can lead to serious consequences for device wearers. Equally, parole officers can become inundated by thousands of daily alerts, burying any high-priority violations in the numerous erroneous and meaningless alerts.

GPS drift is one of the many common and detrimental malfunctions. A 2020 study by Cornell researcher Lauren Kilgour titled “The Ethics of Aesthetics: Stigma, Information and the Politics of Electronic Ankle Monitor Design” suggests that the lack of improvement by manufacturers over the 30 years of use, combined with their social stigma and difficulty to conceal, could be intended as just another part of the intended “punishment.”

“With something like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, or other types of broadly available commercial wearable technology, the goal has been to make it less conspicuous, smaller, sleeker,” says Kilgour. “But because that same type of visual work hasn’t been done [with ankle monitoring devices], it raises the important question: Why does this object continue to look like this? Why are questions about aesthetics not more central in conversations about ankle monitor design?”

When reviewing a list of the ankle monitor’s common errors, it is fair to conclude that the industry standard ankle monitor is outdated and flawed. The devices, made with the intention of offering a second chance to offenders and help with integration back into society, are instead a wearable criminal record. The stigma has equally trained society to deem its wearer a dangerous criminal. Low-risk offenders are lumped together with those of high risk, thus opening an invitation to prejudice, placing a roadblock in their steps to societal integration and rehabilitation and ultimately causing higher chance for recidivism – exactly what the monitoring devices were supposedly created to reduce.

A New, Leading-Edge Solution

Talitrix, a software as a service (SaaS) company based in Atlanta, Georgia, is set on revolutionizing the criminal justice industry and ultimately reforming the standard ankle monitoring and GPS supervising system. While the industry’s ankle monitor technology has remained stagnant for 30 years, the Talitrix T-band and monitoring solutions have been developed with up-to-date, leading-edge technologies which collect and analyze data for a more proactive response for device wearers, supervisors and jurisdictions. With the focused mission of Talitrix technology solutions, families can be put back together, communities can be protected and dignity can be restored.

The Overlooked Cons of Ankle Monitors

The ankle monitor (also known and used as a house arrest monitor, alcohol monitoring device, ankle GPS or electronic home monitoring) is part of a multi-million-dollar industry in the US criminal justice system. The very first GPS trackers and GPS location systems were developed by a Harvard experiment in the 1960s to assist in rehabilitating young offenders. Robert Gable, one of the designers, wrote “… the original goal of the electronic monitoring was not to punish offenders but to provide a means of rewarding prosocial, noncriminal behavior.”

From 2005 to 2015, the use of GPS ankle monitoring for criminal offenders on parole, probation or pretrial supervision increased by almost 140% in the US. This resulted in over 125,000 people under electronic judicial supervision in 2015. Much of this was to reduce prison overcrowding and state prison costs, while at the same time, providing an opportunity for rehabilitation and restoration of individual freedom. Proponents of electronic GPS monitor use will argue that it is more cost-effective for state jail and prison systems and, in turn, allows offenders to reunite with family while rehabilitating and ultimately reducing recidivism. 

These proponents have come to overlook the opposing cons of these outdated devices. While cost-effective for state systems, the ankle monitor costs instead must come out of the offender’s pocket. Stigma already creates obstacles in successfully retaining employment and an income. As a result, the expensive costs are another roadblock in the path to reduced recidivism and complete rehabilitation.

A Prevalent Stigma

The use of marking a person as a form of punishment has been used for centuries, from the branding of slaves and criminals to the yellow patches once deployed by Nazis. Historical novel The Scarlet Letter is a notorious literary exploration of shame and social stigma in both legal and moral contexts. The current system has never promoted the ankle monitor to specifically shame or strip the wearer of their dignity, but the lack of technical evolution in the device, combined with the common use of electronic monitoring for offenses ranging from low to high-risk, have resulted in the societal assumption that an ankle monitor’s wearer is a dangerous criminal. This directly conflicts with the once-intended purpose for which ankle monitors were made,instead causing disconnect from community, prejudice and social ostracization. 

The traditional ankle monitor relies on a GPS system. A probation officer or supervisor will place exclusion zones that prohibit from entering certain boundaries, or a person under house arrest can be tracked to ensure they remain in their quarters. Other reasons, like pretrial supervision, call for tracking a person’s whereabouts if they are deemed a flight risk. While the wearer may exhibit full compliance with their probation, the same does not always go for the supposedly infallible device around their ankle.

The GPS Technology: Unreliable and Outdated

Like the everyday electronic device, ankle monitors are subject to malfunction. With no technological advancements over the past 30 years, any malfunctioning can throw an offender’s life and probationary status into jeopardy. 

Since they must be on and charged at all times for perfect compliance, standard ankle monitors need one hour of charging at least once per day, or sometimes twice, depending on activity. In a 2018 article for The Crime Report, journalist Riley Vetterkind wrote that lawmakers had introduced a bill making it a felony for “anyone on GPS monitoring to intentionally fail to charge his or her bracelet.” In the same article, journalists reported finding “numerous service requests and complaints related to bracelets failing to hold a charge.”

The article introduces Cody McCormick, a resident of Wisconsin, where he is required to wear his ankle monitor for life. At one point, records showed that his GPS tracker was not communicating with the monitoring center due to poor cellular reception at his grandmother’s house, a rural area. Regardless of being found exactly where he was supposed to be, McCormick was sent to jail for three days and lost his job as a result.

Ten months later, GPS tracking indicated McCormick was in an off-limits zone for an hour. He told officials that he had only driven past the location. His roommate, who was with him, affirmed the events. Despite a clear GPS drift error, McCormick was jailed for five days.

The article continues by reporting the data triggered by monitors worn by Wisconsin residents. In May 2017 alone, the state monitoring center lost cell connection 56,852 times with 895 offenders, or 64 times per offender. Monitored offenders lost satellite signal enough times to generate 32,766 alerts – only half of which were “serious enough to be investigated.” The Wisconsin Department of Corrections submitted a total of “135 requests for technical problems with GPS tracking devices – 93 for charging or battery issues with ankle bracelets, 12 for signals lost, 14 for false tamper alerts.”

The long list of issues at hand begs this question: are electronic ankle monitors really an alternative to incarceration, or are they an alternative form of incarceration? Combined with being easily tampered with (despite being marketed as completely tamper proof), a nearly 10-minute tracking lag due to GPS drift and cellular signal errors and the false alarms which put offenders’ freedoms at risk and remove priority from high-risk alerts, the current standard ankle monitor is a highly flawed and outdated device that seems to no longer be in a wearer’s best interests.

Talitrix Revolutionizes Electronic GPS Monitoring

Talitrix was founded in 2020 upon the idea that standard GPS ankle monitors are flawed and well outdated devices. The company has since collaborated with law enforcement and criminal justice partners to develop a refreshed alternative to the system’s current standard monitoring device, under the belief that reintegration into society should not come with the cost of one’s basic dignity. By working to create an up-to-date model with use of the most accurate technology on the market, the goal is sharp analytics and accurate behavioral data for the sake of personalized case management and more informed decisions, without fear of technical errors or a scarlet letter.

The team behind Talitrix’s leading-edge technology consists of innovators, criminal justice experts and software engineers based in Atlanta, Georgia. They have worked to develop a system which collects participant behavior and biofeedback data, analyzes it with use of proprietary algorithms and artificial intelligence, and establishes the specific information needed for case managers and supervisors to make more educated responses to participants and jurisdictions. Talitrix provides an informed, full case management solution for a highly focused end goal of increased compliance and reduced recidivism.

Talitrix T-Band

The innovative Talitrix band is a watch-like wristband that proves sleeker and more discreet than the traditional ankle monitor. The T-band’s cutting-edge technology provides independent tracking and reporting (without the need for a phone or base station), heart monitoring, two-way redundant GPS and GSM monitoring and geo-fencing for victim protection and curfew enforcement, without need for a RF beacon. Victims are protected with the device’s perimeter breach notification, and all activity is stored safely in the cloud database.

Both the device and metal frame are tamper-resistant, and the device is loaded with an accurate tamper alert system with a unique lock that only specific tooling can secure, both mechanically and electronically.

The T-band is the first monitoring device to offer facial recognition and on-demand photo check-in. And with a battery life of up to 4 days (depending on activity), participants aren’t tasked with constant charging or higher chance of low-battery violations. 

Talitrix App

The Talitrix participant app makes compliance easier. Together with the Talitrix supervisor app, the combined data simplifies case management for a more accurate and personalized approach and experience for both parties.

The participant app gives real-time GPS tracking every 15 seconds, with precise location tracking and a much lesser chance of drift. First-of-their-kind biometric check-ins with facial and video capabilities, along with chat and instant notifications, make communication compliance simple and more accessible.

The supervisor app lessens hassle with live status updates and on-screen, real-time tracking. The supervisor can send instant check-in requests and can control geo-fencing with simple tools to protect victims and manage curfew. Event and document management data provide further personalized case management for a more successful outcome.

Talitrix Score

A cutting-edge function of the Talitrix system is the Talitrix Score feature. Talitrix uses historical behavior data and predictive analytics to establish a weighted average indicating the participant’s compliance, and the data will remain stored in the cloud. 

A Talitrix Score ranges from 0-100, 100 indicating perfect compliance. Similar to a credit score, some violations count more than others to determine the weighted average; violations lower the score, while positive actions raise it, but high priority violations require considerable positive actions to overcome. The score does not include factors such as race, gender or other participant traits, determining compliance with real data and without bias.

High priority violations include band tampering, entering prohibited zones, or if the band or phone are dead. Medium priority violations include curfews or missing any photo, call or live check-ins. Positive actions include keeping the band and phone charged for 24 hours, successful check-ins, and complying with curfews.

Talitrix Guardian Solution

The Talitrix Guardian Solution combines the T-band and Talitrix App to provide reliable, real-time tracking and easy compliance for custody and case management monitoring. Two-way redundant GPS & GSM monitoring provides reliable location reports with GPS tracking every 15 seconds, lowering the chance of GPS drift. 

The tamper alert system covers both the app and the band, the latter with a tamper-resistant metal frame. Tracking data is stored securely in the cloud. With the heart rate monitoring capability and on-demand check in, the Guardian Solution is flexible and customizable for traditional house arrest and court hearing notifications.

Talitrix Paves a  New Way

Talitrix devices are first of their kind and one of a kind. The criminal justice system has relied upon outdated technology loaded with flaws to determine criminal and probationary status, ignoring the obstacles that have been thrown in the way of those making true efforts to rehabilitate and realign their lives.

Dignity is at the forefront of Talitrix. The criminal justice system is deeply flawed with equally flawed, decades-old technology. For better rehabilitation and a higher chance of reduced recidivism, dignity must first be restored – and with the means of smoother, sleeker technological devices with real people as their highest priority, Talitrix is restoring dignity one T-band at a time.