The ‘pains’ of electronic monitoring: a slap on the wrist or just as bad as prison?




Brian K. Payne, David C. May, Peter B. Wood

Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society

Volume 27, Issue 2, 2014

26 Feb 2014



The purpose of this research is to examine whether inmates that have served electronic monitoring (EM) find it more punitive than offenders that have not served electronic monitoring. We asked a sample of 1194 inmates currently incarcerated in a Midwestern state to estimate exchange rates of electronic monitoring over prison by rating how many months of EM they would serve to avoid 12 months in prison. The results indicate that inmates view EM as less punitive than prison and that monitored offenders find EM more punitive than unmonitored offenders. Additionally, black inmates were more likely to have served EM than white inmates and older inmates find EM more punitive than younger inmates. Previously monitored offenders report that they will be less likely to rely on family and friends upon release from prison. These results suggest that EM is perceived as a punitive sanction by those that have experienced it. Furthermore, racial differences uncovered here may help explain why minorities view alternative sanctions as particularly punitive and may also partially explain why the experience of EM may negatively impact family relationship among those that have served EM.