A first-of-its-kind technology in Ohio is being used for electronic monitoring of some low-level offenders, swapping out ankle bracelets for smartwatches. The Southwest Ohio County Court System is piloting a program that would change electronic surveillance, working to do away with the stigma surrounding electronic monitoring, The Hill reports. Officials say they will still be able to keep an eye on those who break the law but in a more discreet way. Some are calling for more testing of the technology. In Warren County, Judge Robert Peeler is at the forefront of the effort to help criminal offenders re-integrate into society using a device called the VeriWatch. Similar to a smartwatch, the device would replace the often uncomfortable ankle bracelet with a smaller, less conspicuous option. The device would still be able to track a person’s movements 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Peeler called the technology a game changer. “Our goal is to help remove the obstacles to recovery, and for a person to feel good about themselves is a part of that. They have to feel they’re valuable as human beings and to have a scarlet letter on them is a problem,” Peeler said.
Barry Latzer, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College and author of the book “The Myth of Overpunishment,” is an advocate of electronic monitoring but also believes the new technology needs to be tested rigorously. “I vote ‘yes’ when these things work,” Latzer said, “There is one big obstacle to the wristwatch idea, and that’s this: We have to make sure that the person — the defendant — is the one wearing the watch. We have to be sure that the offender hasn’t simply put the watch in the drawer or given it to a friend and gone off to commit other offenses.” Law enforcement officials who have tried out features on the smartwatch, such as remote sensors that detect removal, say those are unlikely scenarios. They’ve tried to tamper and remove the devices, just as the defendants might. Additionally, the people who wear the watches will also be the ones to pay for them, unless they can’t afford them. That’s when the state will step in and help out with grants. The new smartwatch will cost less than $5 a day. Experts say it’s a small price to pay when compared with the average cost of housing an inmate at the Warren County Jail, which is nearly $93 a day.