Courtrooms in Chicago are ordering teens awaiting trial to wear ankle monitors that not only constantly track them with GPS but also let probation officers call them at any time.
While judges defend the monitors as a way to enforce probation, the monitors have legal experts up in arms over the all-but-unrestricted access they grant into the lives and goings-on of minors caught up in the penal code, CityLab reports.
When wearing Track Group’s ReliAlert XC3, the ankle monitor that Chicago agreed to use earlier this year, it’s impossible to reject an incoming call.
“I can’t quite even start down the parade of horribles in terms of all the ways this could be a problem,” Chicago-based attorney and former juvenile defender Sarah Staudt told CityLab. “The idea that an adult can turn on a listening device while a child is, say, in the bathroom or in their bedroom is not good.”
Other legal experts shared similar concerns with CityLab, describing the monitors as a needless symptom of overpolicing underprivileged parts of the city.
A representative of the Circuit Court of Cook County, where Chicago is located, told CityLab that the communication system is used to remind the teens that their monitor’s battery needs charging or to warn them against entering a prohibited area.
The representative, Pat Milhizer, said he didn’t know of any abuses of the recording system, but that the county would consider privacy concerns. Each recording is stored for 18 months, CityLab reports, so it’s possible to check and make sure no one has abused a teen’s privacy.
Experts interviewed by CityLab argued that these monitors, which are supposedly meant to give minors an alternative to incarceration, do more harm than good. Research suggests that almost everyone who’s released before trial will show up at court of their own accord, even without monitoring.
Meanwhile, people with ankle monitors often end up committing some technical violation that results in them being incarcerated anyway.
As one 15-year-old wearing an ankle monitor told Citylab, “They give you all the tools to bury yourself.”
READ MORE: Chicago’s Ankle Monitors Can Call and Record Kids Without Their Consent [CityLab]
More on incarceration: U.S. Prisons Are Covertly Gathering Inmates’ Biometric Voice Data