But, as those who have been subjected to EM and those who have researched the implications of mass monitorization argue, its depiction as an “alternative” to incarceration is based on a number of faulty assumptions; EM should more aptly be called “E-carceration.”7
Researcher, author, and activist James Kilgore recalls serving parole with an ankle bracelet and having to choose between taking his ill mother to the hospital or adhering to the mobility restrictions of his monitor.8 He argues:
An alternative to incarceration must embody an alternative mindset. This means rejection of the punitive, racist mentality that has dominated US criminal justice and social policy for more than three decades. An alternative to incarceration must recognize the full humanity and rights of people with felony convictions and their loved ones.9
Most EM is being used in pre-trial release programs for those who cannot afford bail, employing GPS to track individuals at all times – a newfangled form of incarceration before conviction. As founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, Malkia Cyril stresses: “There is increasing evidence that the algorithmic formulas used to make these decisions [about who should be assigned e- monitoring] contain deep-seated racial bias, so we must explore the extent to which EM both infringes upon core civil rights and represents a new frontier to compile surveillance data.”10 The very solutions to mass incarceration and prison overcrowding, in other words, give rise to innovative forms of injustice. They are, in short, racial fixes that harm even as they purport to help.
Technological Benevolence Numerous efforts are also underway to develop technologies that ameliorate social cleavages. These interventions explicitly aim at addressing bias of different kinds, but some of them can still end up reinforcing the New Jim Code. Take, for example, new artificial intelligence techniques for vetting job applicants. A company called HireVue aims to “reduce unconscious bias and promote diversity” in the workplace by using an AI-powered program that analyzes recorded interviews of prospective employees. It uses thousands of data points, including verbal and nonverbal cues such as facial expression, posture, and vocal tone, and compares jobseekers’ scores to those of existing top-performing employees in order to decide whom to flag as a desirable hire and whom to reject.
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