An Ankle Bracelet, or a Prison Cell?

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To the Editor:Re “The Newest Jim Crow” (column, Nov. 11):It is unfortunate that Michelle Alexander rejects electronic monitoring of criminal defendants, as it is the best way to free people from jails and prisons while minimizing the risk to the public. Nationwide, one in three released pretrial defendants fails to comply with the requirements of discharge. They don’t show up for court proceedings (23 percent) or they get arrested for another crime (17 percent). Monitoring is proved to reduce such noncompliance. Moreover, the defendants who are offered bail often committed violent or serious crimes; they are given the bail-or-jail option, rather than release on recognizance, because they may be dangerous. The more pretrial defendants we release, the more the risk to the communities to which they return. These communities, which often have high minority populations, deserve the protection that monitoring can provide. If the movement to reduce incarceration is to gain widespread public support, the use of electronic monitoring should be expanded, not condemned.Barry LatzerNew YorkThe writer is professor emeritus of criminal justice at John Jay College, CUNY.To the Editor:Michelle Alexander raises important concerns regarding the increasing capacity of the state to use big data and sophisticated surveillance technology to create an electronic form of incarceration for people of color living outside prison walls. But much more analysis and discussion are required on how such a scheme might be used to affect the labor conditions of e-incarcerated people. In New York, parolees are required to seek and maintain employment as a condition of their release. And parolees are often reincarcerated for technical violations that may unexpectedly arise with employment, like missing curfew or failing to report travel. E-surveillance will almost certainly further increase the leverage of the state to compel and control employment choices at little cost, in effect creating electronic chain gangs.Confronting the work implications of these new systems of incarceration is essential to any meaningful effort to resist them.Justice FavorNew YorkThe writer is an organizer for the Construction and General Building Laborers Local 79, Laborers’ International Union of North America.To the Editor:I have to disagree with Michelle Alexander, who suggests that ankle bracelets are to mass incarceration what Jim Crow was to slavery. Ask any prison inmate whether he or she would prefer to be locked up or out with an ankle bracelet. Most would gladly put up with the inconveniences to be with their family and friends. Experts recognize that these connections are critical to their successful rehabilitation as well.I applaud President Trump for pushing prison reform, especially since it emphasizes reducing recidivism. That’s the best kind of justice for everyone.Andrea EconomosHartsdale, N.Y.