Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Supervised Release and Electronic Monitoring

While most of my focus has been on the 3 months I will spend in prison, there is an additional reality that I must face when I get out -- supervised release for 3 years of which the first 3 months require home confinement with electronic monitoring.

I had some questions about electronic monitoring that I addressed to the Pretrial Officer who has been assigned to me since my arraignment last June. She has been strictly professional and the experience has been only positive. Nonetheless, she preferred referring my questions to her counterpart, the Probation Officer (PO) who will be assigned to my case after I am released from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

I spoke with him yesterday and he agreed to stop by the house today to go over any issues in advance to smooth the transition from prison to probation.

Again, as with the Pretrial Officer, the interaction was relaxed and professional. He has a job to do and it is in both of our interests that things go smoothly.

With respect to home confinement, I had been led to believe that, with the exception of visits to church, lawyer, and doctor, I was essentially confined to the walls of my home 24/7. I would not even be able to walk out of my house to get my mail. In a sense, it almost seemed more confining than prison, apart from the preferrable comfort and privacy of home, of course. Most individuals would be allowed to leave during the day for their job, but since I am self-employed that didn't appear to apply. I already had friends at Wizeguys Pizza Bar volunteering to deliver lunch to my house every day!!

Turns out the reality is different than what I feared. While each "client" is handled on a case-by-case basis, in general it appears that I will have significant "free" time during the day to handle personal and business matters. During this time, I will be "off" the monitoring device. However, I will have a curfew that will require me to remain within the walls of my house. Thus, any chores and errands will have to be done during whatever window of time is granted to me during the day. The PO seemed totally reasonable and flexible concerning this time window and we will discuss it further when I am released. I anticipate my release date will be Fri, June 29. I already have a flight booked back to Charlotte on that day so I hope I guessed correctly. I will call him when I return to let him know everything is on schedule and we already have an appointment for the beginning of the next week. Technically, I have 72 hours to return to my home district and report to the US Probation Office.

As for the mechanics of electronic monitoring, I do not have a "regular" phone line, which is required for the system to work. When our house was built 18 months ago, I planned on using VOIP (i.e. Vonage) for my business and residential telephone service. The problem is that the telephone company will not drop a line from the road to your house unless you sign up for service. Therefore, my house is not "wired" to work with electronic monitoring.

Today, I arranged for Windstream to install a "land" line to my house right after I get out of prison. It is important that the service have no additional features, such as call waiting, *69, etc so they are giving me local service with no options... less than $20/month plus installation. Whatever.

I am responsible for paying for the monitoring service, which I understand to be about $3/day. So it will cost me about $300 for the 3 months plus $60 for phone service plus $65 for install. Compared to what this case has cost me already, that is pocket change.

In any case, I am relieved that the home confinement does not appear to be quite as confining as I first thought. I am also impressed with the professionalism I have encountered so far with the US Probation Office. I hope I encounter the same degree of professionalism in prison.

1 comment:

Peter A. Stinson said...

My brother, a former lawyer, has interacted both with the feds and local authorities in southeastern Pennsylvania. The feds are professional and reasonable. I'll not comment on his other experiences... ;-)

Be glad you're in the federal system.