Tag Archive: panopticon

The Spread of Electronic Monitoring: No Quick Fix for Mass Incarceration


From Prison Legal News/ By James Kilgore

In a troubled criminal justice system desperately looking for alternatives to incarceration, electronic monitoring is trending. North Carolina has tripled the use of electronic monitors since 2011. California has placed 7,500 people on GPS ankle bracelets as part of a realignment program aimed to reduce prison populations. SuperCom, an Israeli-based Smart ID and electronic monitor producer, announced in early July 2014 that they were jumping full force into the U.S. market, predicting this will be a $6 billion-a-year global industry by 2018.

The praise singers of electronic monitoring are also re-surfacing. In late June 2014, high-profile blogger Dylan Matthews posted a story on Vox Media, headlined “Prisons are terrible and there’s finally a way to get rid of them.” He enthusiastically argued that the most “promising” alternative “fits on an ankle.” Joshua Earnest, press secretary for the Obama White House, even suggested ankle bracelets as a solution to getting the 52,000 unaccompanied immigrant children out of border detention centers and military bases in the U.S. Southwest.

The reasons behind this popular surge of electronic monitoring are obvious: Prisons and jails (along with immigrant detention facilities) are overflowing from decades of mass incarceration. State, local and even federal authorities are looking for budget-cutting quick fixes. In the era of the smart phone, smart watch and smart textiles, nothing reads solution like technology. (more…)

Your Home Is Your Prison

homeprisonFrom Truth Out/By Maya Schenwar

On January 27th, domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander will walk out of Florida’s Duval County jail — but she won’t be free.

Alexander, whose case has gained some notoriety, endured three years of jail time and a year of house arrest while fighting off a prison sentence that would have seen her incarcerated for the rest of her life — all for firing a warning shot that injured no one to fend off her abusive husband. Like many black women before her, Alexander was framed as a perpetrator in a clear case of self-defense. In November, as her trial date drew close, Alexander accepted a plea deal that will likely give her credit for time served, requiring her to spend “just” 65 more days in jail. Media coverage of the development suggested that Alexander would soon have her “freedom,” that she would be “coming home.”

Many accounts of the plea deal, however, missed what Alexander will be coming home to: she’ll return to “home detention” — house arrest — for two years.

In other words, an electronic monitor, secured around her ankle at all times, will track her every movement. Alexander will also be paying $105 per week to the state in monitoring fees, as is the custom in Florida and more than a dozen other states.

Such a situation is certainly preferable to being caged in a prison cell. However, does Alexander’s release — and that of others in her shoes — mean freedom? In reality, an ever-growing number of cages are proliferating around us, even if they assume forms that look nothing like our standard idea of a cage.

As mass incarceration is falling out of fashion — it’s been denounced by figures across the political spectrum from Eric Holder to Newt Gingrich — a whole slate of “alternatives to incarceration” has arisen. From electronic monitoring and debilitating forms of probation to mandatory drug testing and the sort of “predictive policing” that turns communities of color into open-air prisons, these alternatives are regularly presented as necessary “reforms” for a broken system.

It’s worth remembering, however, that when the modern prison emerged in the late eighteenth century, it, too, was promoted as a “reform,” a positive replacement for corporal or capital punishment. Early prison reformers — many of them Quakers bent on repentance and redemption — suggested that cutting people off from the rest of the world would bring them closer to God. (The word “penitentiary” comes, of course, from “penitence.”)


On Cameras: breaches of respect and solidarity

toomanyExcerpted from The Failure of Nonviolence by Peter Gelderloos

The next big issue is the cameras. Everyone needs to realize that they are endangering fellow protesters by filming everything. We should also spread the criticism that if everyone has a camera, they are nothing but a passive spectator, and they are turning their own protest into a sheer spectacle. A camera in the hands is one less rock, one less sign, one less flag, one less can of spraypaint, or one less stack of flyers, and really, one less protester in any active sense of the word. While the question of spectacularization is important, the question of security is basic. Filming at a protest exposes anyone who chooses confrontational methods to arrest and imprisonment. That’s a major lack of mutual respect and solidarity. But filming and taking pictures endangers everyone else as well. The police aren’t there just to arrest lawbreakers. They are there to help make sure our movements fail. They surveil and keep files on everyone who they think might be a threat to authority.

            It has happened in many countries before and it will happen again that democratic governments are replaced by dictatorships, and the dictatorships use the lists of enemies of the state that the democratic governments had already compiled. Another reality is that immigrants who fall under surveillance in democratic countries are deported and face even heavier consequences in their home countries. As for the democratic governments, new technologies are quickly giving them a capacity for total surveillance, and they are not holding back. It is significant, given that Facebook has become one of the primary tools of law enforcement to collect data on social movements, that most of the people taking photos are only going to upload them on their idiotic Facebook pages.

            Many people believe that there is a need to use cameras as a tool against police brutality or for counterinformation and alternative media. But a camera is far more dangerous to protesters than a molotov cocktail. No one should be using one at a protest without knowing what they are doing. Until Cop Watch collectives, legal aid groups, and Indymedia or other counterinformation activists start organizing workshops on how to film without enabling police surveillance, how to edit images to erase people’s identifying features, when it’s okay to put protesters’ faces on the internet, how to safely store, upload, and delete images, they should not take cameras to a protest. At a protest, they should identify themselves so others know they are not cops or corporate journalists. And everyone else with a camera should be asked to put it away or leave. Of course, we cannot stop onlookers from filming or taking pictures, and in the end everyone must take responsibility for protecting their own identity if that is what they want to do, but we will have created an environment much more friendly for a diversity of tactics—or just an active, non-spectacular protest—and much less friendly for police surveillance, if we can discourage camera usage within the protest itself.


The Failure of Nonviolence is available from Left Bank Books

Cell Phone Guide for US Protesters

cellphone1From Electronic Frontier Foundation

With major protests in the news again, we decided it’s time to update our cell phone guide for protestors. A lot has changed since we last published this report in 2011, for better and for worse. On the one hand, we’ve learned more about the massive volume of law enforcement requests for cell phone—ranging from location information to actual content—and widespread use of dedicated cell phone surveillance technologies. On the other hand, strong Supreme Court opinions have eliminated any ambiguity about the unconstitutionality of warrantless searches of phones incident to arrest, and a growing national consensus says location data, too, is private.

Protesters want to be able to communicate, to document the protests, and to share photos and video with the world. So they’ll be carrying phones, and they’ll face a complex set of considerations about the privacy of the data those phones hold. We hope this guide can help answer some questions about how to best protect that data, and what rights protesters have in the face of police demands. (more…)

Raleigh, Durham police using device that tracks cellphone data

stingrayFrom WRAL

— Police in Raleigh and Durham are using a controversial tool to fight crime.

Commonly called Stingray, the small suitcase-sized technology acts like a cell tower and allows police to track cellphone data. Critics say the devices, which are also in use in Charlotte and Wilmington, invade people’s privacy because they can collect information on the location and activity of cellphones.

“It is a very concerning technology because of its capability, but it’s also concerning because it’s so secretive,” said Sarah Preston, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s North Carolina chapter.

Raleigh police have used Stingray for five years, police department spokesman Jim Sughrue said Monday, but he didn’t provide any other information regarding use of the device. (more…)

Carrboro Police To Increase Surveillance Capabilities

Carrboro Police using cameras against activists

Carrboro Police using cameras against activists

From Chapel Hill News

 — As the Carrboro Police Department makes plans to buy in-car and eventually body-mounted cameras for its officers, it is developing a policy the chief says will protect the rights of both the officers and the people they film.

Police Chief Walter Horton recently told the Board of Aldermen that he hopes to purchase eight car cameras in the coming year and add additional cameras each year as the department buys new vehicles.

The department has not budgeted the money to purchase any body cameras for officers this year.

Cameras will record traffic stops, searches, encounters with people on the street and for some investigations, Horton said. (more…)