Can People Shower or Swim With Electronic House Arrest Ankle Monitors?

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People under house arrest, on parole, or on probation are often made to wear electronic monitoring ankle bracelets. According to Prison Legal News, there are around 200,000 people wearing these devices today. While some argue electronic monitoring helps reduce prison populations, others fear the nascent legal framework hasn't been under enough scrutiny.

Strapping an electric tether on people raises a lot of questions. Most importantly, how do you shower with one?

The short answer: they're waterproof.

Because different states use different devices made by different companies, the level of water-resistance varies, but they all should be able to withstand a simple shower. This GPS monitoring ankle bracelet, for example, is waterproof up to 50 feet, so it's conceivable that someone could safely and legally snorkel while under the watchful eye of the state. Others include instructions that say they shouldn't to be used in a pool or jacuzzi. If a signal is blocked because the monitor is submerged past a point it can handle, it will register that the wearer has tampered with the monitor or left their house and the authorities will be contacted.

Some monitors are designed to detect and send alerts if the subject has consumed alcohol. These are called SCRAMs (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), and they sample and analyze the wearer's sweat. People have tried to fake SCRAMs out by putting a barrier between their skin and the device, but the monitor can detect this and registers it as tampering. The instructions for SCRAMs state that brief contact with a towel after showering should be the only thing to ever come between skin and the device. (They also recommend using a blow dryer on low if a towel doesn't do the trick.)

In all instances, the parole or correctional officer who attaches the ankle monitor has the final say on what it can handle. It's designed to be an extension of them, after all.

April 7, 2014 - 9:30am
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