Although everyone who reads this blog is well aware that Allison Mack and Clare Bronfman have been ordered to wear “ankle monitors” as a condition of their respective bail packages, few, if any, have given much thought as to what that entails.
To be sure, being allowed to stay at home while you’re awaiting trial is a lot better than sitting in a prison cell surrounded by 120 or so of your new best friends (Just ask Keith Raniere which he would prefer). But when you add in the requirement of wearing an ankle monitor, that difference becomes less dramatic.
To begin with, let’s look at what these devices are – and how they work (Although they now come in several varieties, we’ll just look at the most common type):
• The ankle monitor itself is an electronic device that emits a radio signal two or more times per minute;
• The radio signal is picked up by a monitoring station that is located in the wearer’s home – and connected to a land-line phone or to a cellular network;
• The electronic information that is picked up by the monitoring system is continuously transmitted to a centralized GPS computer system that has been programmed to send out “alerts” whenever radio contact is broken with the wearer; and
• Any “alerts” go to the parole/probation officer who is responsible for the wearer.
Sounds simple enough right? Just put the monitor on and stay in your house – and you won’t have any problems.
Although that’s basically true, it also omits a lot of the issues that bother those who actually have to wear one of these things.
To begin with, the wearer has to pay to have the system set up – and then pay a daily usage fee. Although each jurisdiction has its own pricing policy, the one-time set-up charge is usually $100-$200 – and the daily usage fee is usually $5-$15.
Next, the monitor has to be charged twice a day – a process that usually takes about an hour. So for at least two hours a day, the wearer is basically turned into a cell phone with a low battery.
Then, there’s the simple reality that these things can never be removed. Not while you’re sleeping, not while you’re exercising, not while you’re involved in eating, drinking, readiness drills, or even in romantic or concupiscent activities, not while you’re taking care of bodily functions, not while you’re bathing or showering…NEVER!
Finally, there are a variety of medical-related issues that are associated with the devices. Itching and chaffing are almost universal among ankle monitor wearers – and many also experience elevated blood pressure throughout the time they’re wearing the device.
Some even experience numbness and neuropathy in the area below the monitor.
And for those who are fortunate enough to be granted some time outside their homes, there’s the problem of finding clothes that will accommodate the bulk of the ankle monitor device. Forget those skinny jeans. But retro bell-bottoms will work just fine.
Some wearers find the psychological damage inflicted by an ankle monitor to be almost worse than being imprisoned. And there are many prisoners who opt to finish their sentence in jail rather than be placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor device.
Even the inventors of the devices now believe that there are better ways to monitor people.
Tampering with – or removing – an ankle monitor can result in three things: a bill for whatever it costs to repair the damage; a separate criminal charge; and the immediate revocation of bail and incarceration.
So, what about Allison and Clare? How, are they likely faring in terms of adapting to living with their ankle monitors?
In Allison’s case, it appears that she’s using the tried-and-true “sock-under-the-monitor” approach to cut down on the chaffing and irritation (There were some ugly rumors that the Feds had to build a custom version to accommodate Allison’s cankles but those rumors have yet to be verified).
And in the case of Clare, it appears that she’s gone for the long loose pants cover-up approach. We’ll be looking for some pictures of her ankles at her next court appearance.
But every day, Allison and Clare have to spend a couple hours getting their monitors powered up.
And every day, they have to look at those damn things and be reminded of the fact that they’ve already lost some of their freedom – and may soon lose it altogether.
Viva Executive Success!