“You cannot ever unplug that box! You are tethered to it!” shouted my parole agent during a recent phone conversation. The referred to apparatus is the black box that was installed in my apartment to maximize connection for maintenance checks with the GPS monitor on my ankle. Frequently, the box inexplicably emits beeps. When that happens, I unplug it, and five minutes later plug it back in and reboot it to my ankle monitor. This process routinely has occurred over the past five months; and I had not received one call regarding any problem with my whereabouts. That changed two weeks ago when a call arrived from my parole agent indicating that I was “pinging all over the place on the radar.” After I explained what had been taking place, the “tethered” comment was voiced.
Hearing “tethered” was jarring because it was yet another base example proving what little regard there is for individuals on parole (and the registry).
On May 1, 2017, I was released on parole in Connecticut. My parole agent fastened on my ankle monitor and said, “OK, while on parole the goal is for you to go about your normal life, but with the GPS I will watch your every move.” I recall thinking sarcastically, “Huh, nothing conveys ‘go about your normal life,’” like, “’I will watch your every move.’” And seventy-eight days later (July 18, 2107), before unclipping the ankle monitor, she asked, “Are you ready to say goodbye to your built-in alibi?” When I expressed confusion, she continued, “This ankle monitor was serving as an alibi for you in case you were wrongfully accused of anything. Most parolees appreciate wearing one for that very reason.” I departed my parole agent’s office no longer wearing an “alibi” but carrying even more cynicism towards a system that smacked of hypocrisy.
I moved to California on August 19, 2020. The following day, I met with my parole agent and was greeted with, “I hope you went to the beach and a park yesterday, because now you’re not allowed to and I’ll know if you do once I place this monitor onto your ankle.” (For the record, over the course of a year, despite making many phone calls to a variety of law enforcement offices, the ankle-monitor regulation was not brought to my attention until one week before my transfer was approved.) As she fitted the hardware, she added, “Look at it as a positive. If you are ever accused of something that you did not do, this monitor will serve as an alibi.” Upon hearing that, I blurted, “Is that ‘alibi’ selling point in a manual? My parole agent in Connecticut tried peddling that crud to me, as well.” My agent scoffed and said, “Well, it has helped others avoid being remanded, so it should be considered as a point of comfort.” This is the same agent, that one month later called to ask where I was because my ankle monitor had me in six different places, simultaneously. And two months later, during a house visit, that parole agent, said, “One time a client was pinging in the Pacific Ocean while I was standing next to him in his house. These devices are so outdated.” And these are the devices that should be a “point of comfort”? Apparently, an alibi for my comforting “alibi” would potentially be required.
And my current parole agent views the device as a tether. There is nothing pleasant about being tethered to anything by someone else’s choice. Involuntarily tethering connotes one who is restrained, shackled, fettered, bound, or lashed. But far more insulting than the physical component that has me charted on a radar and potentially and falsely “pinging all over the place, including in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” is the joking and provoking tone that comes along with the illogical statements explaining the importance of the ankle monitor; it is a clear attempt to oversee and control on all levels. Apparently, parole believes that those convicted of a crime have lost the capacity to command reason. Go about your life we are told. But, like a ball tethered to a pole, we can only go so far before being reminded of the cold reality of that to which we are grounded. That is their game.