Do I pay for my ankle bracelet? Or do I pay to keep the lights on?

An estimated 4,300 people are monitored daily in Marion County, compared to 2,700 people in all of Chicago's Cook County.

According to experts, the number of people being monitored in Indianapolis has more than doubled over the last five years. This overreliance on electronic monitoring is used for individuals who are pre-trial, on parole, or serving a sentence.

In some cases, electronic monitoring is used for individuals who otherwise would not have been incarcerated. This further strains the already overloaded criminal legal system, burdening some of our poorest community members with additional debt.

Like so many components of our criminal legal system, this is not simply a matter of law and order; electronic monitoring is a profitable industry. Track Group, the electronic monitoring provider for Marion County, is invoicing those wearing electronic monitoring up to $22 million annually.

And while Marion County’s dependence on electronic monitoring is always problematic, during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis it is particularly important that this issue be addressed.   

Marion County Corrections charge individuals a $50 fee to get the electronic monitoring device and a daily fee topping out at $14. That could mean a bill as high as $481 for the first month. A significant number of individuals who are forced to pay fees for electronic monitoring devices make less than $12.00 per hour. A majority of these jobs are in the service and hospitality industry, industries which have had to make significant cuts due to the current pandemic.

Even as some individual’s return to work, the reality remains that many of these families are not in positions to pay more than $400 per month in electronic monitoring fees. With historically high unemployment rates, these families will struggle to pay rent or buy food and basic household supplies. Individuals should not have to choose between meeting their parole requirements or supplying basic necessities for their families.

That is why financial relief is desperately needed for Marion County Correctional clients who are enrolled in the electronic monitoring program

We must ensure that people who come in contact with the criminal legal system are able to be successful when they re-engage with the Indianapolis community, not overloaded with debt, and right now, we are failing.

The Marion County Re-entry Coalition recently sent a letter to the Marion County Community Corrections Advisory requesting relief for Marion County Correctional clients who are enrolled in the electronic monitoring programSee the letter here.