Electronic monitoring devices provide an alternative to jail for many defendants. An ankle bracelet means returning to family and work. For corrections officials, it saves money by reducing overcrowded jails and prisons. Those devices are expensive. An NPR survey found that 49 states, all but Hawaii, allow or require the cost to be passed along to the person ordered to wear one.
Tom Barrett of Augusta, Ga., pleaded no contest to stealing a can of beer and was put on probation for year. He could be released as long as he wore an ankle bracelet. When he didn’t have the money to pay for it, he was sent to jail. The bracelet cost $12 a day. There was a $50 set up fee, a $39 a month fee to the private company that supervised his release, and the money to install a land-line phone for the system to work. It totaled more than $400 a month.