The New Prison Industrial-Complex State Budgets and Technology in the Age of Declining State Revenue
by Paul C. Wright
hat tip: Global Research, May 5, 2010
There is a new technological trend in the United States that promises to use advances in Internet, GPS, and chemical detection technology to manage states’ surging prison and parolee populations. Several states, particularly those with massive budget deficits like California and Michigan, are unable to shoulder the burden of housing more inmates in their dangerously overcrowded prisons. They are therefore dramatically increasing the use of GPS technology to monitor the whereabouts and activities of parolees, as well as using the technology for home detention programs and even alcohol consumption monitoring. While it is true that GPS ankle bracelets have been in use for a few years now, new technology, laws, and applications are increasing the use of such devices in what is soon to be a booming industry – fully dependent upon the corrections system.
In Richmond, California, statistically identified as having America’s fourteenth highest crime rate  , the police recently fitted twenty parolees with GPS tracking devices on their ankles.  The devices include paging systems that require the parolee to call his or her parole agent each time they feel the device vibrate. Police officers say that they can use the devices to track parolees and place them at the scene of a crime committed while on parole. The tracking devices do, however, bring into question the status of a parolee’s civil liberties and may open the door to court challenges regarding invasion of privacy and other constitutionally guaranteed rights. The political will of several states are fully behind using the new technology and the courts thus far seem to like the flexibility they offer in sentencing and early release. The Richmond program is merely the tip of the iceberg.
According to a graduate student’s research into the spying policies of major U.S. telecommunications companies, at a recent security conference a Sprint surveillance manager told a group of onlookers that half of all police requests include the target’s text messages.
Half of millions — including some 8 million automated, web-based requests for GPS location, all in just over a year’s time.
The revelation was made by Indiana University grad Christopher Soghoian, as part of his PhD dissertation published Dec. 1, 2009.
He attributes the stunning number to Paul Taylor, an Electronic Surveillance Manager with Sprint Nextel, who was speaking recently at the Washington, D.C. International Securities Systems conference, otherwise known as ISS World.
“Looking around at the name badges pinned to the suits milling around the refreshment area, it really was a who’s who of the spies and those who enable their spying,” he wrote. “Household name telecom companies and equipment vendors, US government agencies (both law enforcement and intel). Also present were representatives from foreign governments — Columbia, Mexico, Algeria, and Nigeria, who, like many of the US government employees, spent quite a bit of time at the vendor booths, picking up free pens and coffee mugs while they learned about the latest and greatest surveillance products currently on the market.”
According to Soghoian, it was during the telecom service providers roundtable discussion that Taylor dropped the bombs.
“[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that’s just scratching the surface,” he said in an audio recording that has since been removed due to alleged copyright violation. “One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement.”