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Ohio county exchanging smartwatches for ankle monitors

Technology for Lawyers

Published: September 8, 2023

A recovery court near Cincinnati is going forward with a program that will take away those clunky and embarrassing ankle monitors and replace them with super-cool space age smartwatches.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that it comes from Judge Robert Peeler of the Warren County Recovery Court.
“To me, this is huge,” Peeler said. "There’s this stigma that’s associated with monitoring people for doing things that we normally do in life. And doing those things helps them progress."
The watch is made by Business Intelligence (BI) and is called the VeriWatch (not to be confused with a diving watch of the same name).
Warren County Common Pleas Community Corrections Director Mike Steele was the person who came up with the plan. He had worked with BI for years as a supplier “that offers government agencies monitoring technologies and services.”
The court department leased the ankle monitors from BI and now decided to step up their monitoring game.
The costs associated with the wristband monitor will be borne by the people wearing them, if they can afford it—the same as the current one with ankle monitors. But the smartwatch will be a little less expensive ($5/day instead of $7/day).
(The Enquirer article noted that justice groups like the ACLU are stating that monitored individuals should never have to pay for the costs of monitoring.)
BI said that features on the wristband/smartwatch monitor include: Regular beeping, proximity and other sensors that can detect removal attempts, biometrical facial comparison, one-way messaging (from officers to users) and a calendar with real-time updates to help with compliance.
On the enforcement said, Steele said that "[m]yself and a few other officers are wearing the devices now,” in late July.
They've tried to tamper with them and remove them, just as defendants might.
"We try to shield them with tin foil. Everything that we see them do, we do," Steele said.
The officers have tried out all of the smartwatch features according to the Enquirer article, and Steele expects that all people with court-ordered monitoring devices will switch over to the wristband monitors by early fall.
On the treatment side, Judge Peeler was effusive in his positive evaluation of the product.
“For people going to work, there's interference with wearing boots and some other types of clothing. Going into someone’s house––for example, delivering furniture––it’s a scary thing in a sense to see that big box on someone’s ankle."
That fear isn't warranted for his court-monitored participants, Peeler said to the Enquirer.
Recovery Court is a way to get people with addiction the treatment they need and to help them regain normal life experiences, including working, he said.
"There’s a stigma associated with the disease," Peeler said. "We try to eliminate the obstacles."