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Biometric wrist monitor tests the future of ankle bracelets in jail and at the border

Biometric wrist monitor tests the future of ankle bracelets in jail and at the border

U.S. law enforcement agencies at the national and county levels are testing biometric watches as a replacement for ankle bracelets to monitor low-threat offenders and migrants awaiting deportation.

As reported by CBS News, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced Monday a pilot program to assign watches to 50 adult migrants in the Denver, Colo., area facing deportation. Tests will last several weeks.

Officials said the program could be expanded to help with the backlog of migrants in the federal Alternatives to Detention program, which is designed to reduce costs and humanize the amnesty-application process for those deemed unlikely to pose a risk to the public or national security.

The VeriWatches, made by BI, would likely be preferable to most people when faced with the alternative, a stay in a for-profit prison, many of which are operated by BI’s parent, GEO Group.

The watches, not all of which can be removed by the wearer, have GPS and scheduling apps. Language options include English, Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian creole. A removable version charges while the wearer sleeps. The other version sends an alert if removed, prompting a mandatory check-in. The product sheet lists “enhanced productivity” and convenient charging as benefits.

The operating cost reportedly is less than $8 per day.

NewsNation has reported that county courts in southwest Ohio are also running a trial of VeriWatch for low-threat offenders. The tested watches reportedly will cost less than $5 a day to operate versus $93 a day house an inmate at the Warren County Jail.

Robert Peeler, a Warren County judge advocating for the VeriWatch, compared ankle bracelets to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s scarlet letter, and reportedly told NewsNation, “our goal is to remove the obstacles to recovery.”

Biometric authentication safeguards in the VeriWatch combine facial comparison and liveness detection with an optical proximity and removal sensors.

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