Changes to statewide electronic monitoring programs took effect this month.
But are they making communities safer?
That’s the focus of the latest story from WGN Investigates, which has reported extensively on issues pertaining to electronic monitoring.
The changes were part of the “Pre-Trial Fairness Act,” a state law that made headlines when passed because it called for ending the practice of cash bail by 2023.
The act also made it so a person on electronic monitoring could have more free movement and not be charged with felony escape until they’ve violated the conditions of house arrest for at least 48 hours. Before the threshold was much stricter.
“A job that already is difficult is now much more difficult,” says Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
But not everyone agrees.
“The reason those laws were passed were because the program as it existed was a human rights violation,” says Sarah Stoudt, of Chicago’s Appleseed for Fair Courts.
She helped write the act.
“What’s important to remember is [in Cook County] they are GPS tracked so even when they are taking care of basic necessities we know where they are,” she adds.
Even so, Dart says the changes are a cause for concern given who’s being monitored. The latest sheriff’s office data shows a total of 2,588 people on electronic monitoring. Many stand accused of violent crimes, including 4 percent, or 109 on murder or attempted murder charges.
“That’s not making our communities any safer,” Dart says.
Supporters of the act tell us they disagree.