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Prison Without Walls


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Electronic incarceration

Fredrik Broden

One snowy night last winter, I walked into a pizzeria in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, with my right pant leg hiked up my shin. A pager-size black box was strapped to my sockless ankle, and another, somewhat larger unit dangled in a holster on my belt.

Together, the two items make up a tracking device called the BI ExacuTrack AT: the former is designed to be tamper-resistant, and the latter broadcasts the wearer’s location to a monitoring company via GPS.

The device is commonly associated with paroled sex offenders, who wear it so authorities can keep an eye on their movements. Thus my experiment: an online guide had specified that the restaurant I was visiting was a "family" joint. Would the moms and dads, confronted with my anklet, identify me as a possible predator and hustle their kids back out into the cold?

Well, no, not in this case. Not a soul took any notice of the gizmos I wore. The whole rig is surprisingly small and unobtrusive, and it allowed me to eat my slice in peace. Indeed, over the few days that I posed as a monitored man, the closest I came to feeling a real stigma was an encounter I had at a Holiday Inn ice machine, where a bearded trucker type gave me a wider berth than I might otherwise have expected. All in all, it didn’t seem like such a terrible fate.

From The Atlantic
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