Journal Commentary Separates Electronic Monitoring from Incarceration

Journal Commentary Separates Electronic Monitoring from Incarceration

Joe Russo, a researcher and a longtime director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center at University of Denver, recently penned a commentary in The Journal of Offender Monitoring (December 2020) that debunks the concept that electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration.

In “Electronic Monitoring: Control Not Incarceration,” Russo says equating electronic monitoring to incarceration both minimizes the effect incarceration has on offenders and families as well curbs the use of electronic monitoring when it can be helpful and appropriate. “Electronic monitoring is not incarceration,” he argues.

In fact, Russo writes: “Without the option of a community-based alternative that includes electronic monitoring, courts, parole boards and other authorities will be more inclined to continue over-using detention and incarceration.”

Russo then highlights the advantages of electronic monitoring versus incarceration in key areas:

Medical Health: Jails and prisons are not healthy environments, more so during the pandemic, and electronic monitoring is an option many authorities have used effectively to transition offenders to community supervision while monitoring compliance to conditions of release.

Mental Health: Confinement is also detrimental to mental health, and electronic monitoring allows offenders to be in the community where these issues can be monitored and managed.

Violence: Electronic monitoring reduces exposure to violence more prevalent in prisons and jails than community life.

Substance Abuse: By releasing offenders to electronic monitoring, individuals managing substance abuse issues can better maintain treatment regimens.

Economics: When individuals are diverted to electronic monitoring, savings to jurisdictions are well documented.

Impact on Children: Allowing offenders to be released on electronic monitoring maintains critical family connections that help stabilize individuals and reduce criminal behavior.

Finally, Russo highlights that using electronic monitoring appropriately is more humane than incarceration, and that agencies using electronic monitoring should have clear policies in place “that are consistent with best practices.”

To read the complete commentary, visit

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