OH: From ankle strap to wristband: Warren County pilots ‘smartwatch’ electronic monitoring devices


Source: wcpo.com 8/23/23

LEBANON, Ohio — Warren County’s judicial system is among the first in the country to pilot a new device that encompasses all the functionality of an ankle monitor in the compatibility of a smartwatch device.

The technology, called the VeriWatch, is relatively new but that didn’t give Mike Steele pause.

Associate director of electronic monitoring for the Warren County Court of Common Pleas adult probation department, Steele said his team has partnered with Business Intelligence Inc. for roughly 15 years. Whenever they launch new technology, like this GPS monitoring device, he always asks if Warren County can demo it, he said.

“I had seen the value in this,” Steel said. “Especially with clientele who are low-to-mid risk — failure to appear, child support — things of that nature, this stigma of wearing an ankle monitor out at work or out in public for an offense such as that. It’s gotta be rough, it’s gotta be hard on that individual.”

Warren County has one of the highest rates of assigning electronic monitoring devices to offenders in lieu of incarceration in Ohio, second only to Franklin County.

Steele said oftentimes, those wearing the ankle monitors are non-violent, low-level offenders in recovery programs or in the pre-trial process.

He said the “clunky boxes” can get in the way not only physically but also mentally. When we see the monitors, we often jump to conclusions, he said.

“I myself, when I first demoed an ankle monitor, I went to the YMCA to work out and I got all kinds of looks,” Steele said. “I wore (the VeriWatch) for a week and no one was the wiser to it so the technology has advanced to where that stigma that the client on court supervision being singled out in public — this greatly diminishes that.”

Steele said the smartwatch-style device operates like a traditional ankle monitor, tracking wearers’ movements, with more tech perks thrown in.

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Great. Another perk of the civilized world that doesn’t apply to us.

“I wore (the VeriWatch) for a week and no one was the wiser to it so the technology has advanced to where that stigma that the client on court supervision being singled out in public — this greatly diminishes that.”

Not so fast with your victory lap. This isn’t the “win win” you they think it is. Give it a while In time the public will soon catch on and identify this fake Apple watch and make the distinction that this is an actual criminal being forced to wear a monitoring device.

You can’t minimize the stigma with new fly-by-night tech.

Once again, the registry – which is an elevated and militant form of probation – is all about expanding and promoting surveillance capitalism, not public safety, awareness or prevention.

I had to wear an ankle monitor for 3 years prior to my sentencing, during which time I had to undergo necessary medical procedures in which the ankle monitor was exposed. I remember the nurse audibly ‘gasping’ when she saw it, and we were both embarassed, and I was quite humiliated. Not much I could do about that.

In my opinion, the watch is a step in the right direction should one have to be saddled with a device of any type. I applaud the use of this device and would like to see it used by more jurisdictions across the country. But I do think it’s quite insane to then charge those who are considered “innocent until proven guilty” $150 a month to be surveilled by the government.

” People don’t feel good about someone looking as if they’re dangerous when in fact they’re not.” Sounds like how we feel about being on the registry, while everyone assumes we are dangerous when we are actually decent human beings. Currently the public rather believe in assumptions than do the dirty work of actually getting to know us for who we truly are.

I don’t think many people will catch on. There are so many watch designed out there that few will notice this watch as much as the ankle bracelet. I wear a watch from China that looks similar to this watch. Not everyone has an apple watch. There are literally thousands of watches from China with unique looks. There will likely be design upgrades too. It’s better than being in jail or the ankle monitor. It will likely hold a charge longer too.