New Report Sheds Light on Murky World of Electronic Monitoring Fees
1st-of-Its-Kind National Examination Reveals Widespread Imposition of Electronic Monitoring Fees Across U.S.
Momentum to Eliminate Justice Fees Growing Among State & Municipal Policymakers
Today, the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC) is releasing Electronic Monitoring Fees: A 50-State Survey of the Costs Assessed to People on E-Supervision. This new publication examines statutes and rules from all 50 states and D.C. to determine whether their codes authorize fees for electronic monitoring at any point in the justice system and to what extent. It explores statutes related to both pretrial release and post-sentencing supervision, the fee amounts authorized, consequences for nonpayment and, to a limited extent, fees at the local level.
Although there are myriad fees in the justice system that wreak havoc on individuals’ lives, the report finds that electronic monitoring fees can be among the most costly, least transparent, and most complicated to quantify.
“The lack of oversight on who can impose fees, along with the lack of limits on the amounts, is striking,” said Tim Curry, Director of Research at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “Adding such a financial strain and debt on people who are least able to afford it simply creates a vicious cycle of court involvement that is far too difficult to break.”
Electronic monitoring (EM) — and the costs associated with it — is often imposed as a condition of probation, parole, diversion, or as a condition of pretrial release for those who have not been found guilty of anything. When people can’t afford to pay EM fees, they are typically punished with extended periods of supervision, additional fees, or jail time.
EM fees are often an additional cost on top of other supervision fees, as well as other case-related fines and fees. Electronic monitoring is often administered by private companies seeking to make a profit, which further adds to its costs.
Imposing fees in the justice system is correlated with higher recidivism rates and declines in overall public safety. Millions of dollars in fines and fees go uncollected around the country — making them poor bases for court budgeting — and the cost of collections can outpace the revenue generated.
In recent years, a growing number of states and localities have taken steps to eliminate electronic monitoring fees, probation & parole fees, and other fees imposed on people at all levels of the justice system.
With successive legislative reforms in 2020, 2021 and 2022, California expressly prohibited the use of electronic monitoring fees, as well as dozens of other justice fees and discharged over $16.5 billion in court debt. Oregon recently enacted legislation eliminating probation and parole fees — which included an amendment to state statute to eliminate language that had previously permitted charging fees related to electronic monitoring at any stage. Meanwhile, Delaware Governor John Carney is expected to sign legislation passed this year to eliminate probation fees, public defender fees, and several other fees.
“Electronic monitoring fees don’t make our communities safer — instead, they set up people for failure,” added Curry. “This vicious cycle of debt and punishment is bad for public safety and bad for the financial security of families living paycheck-to-paycheck.”
Key findings include:
43 states have statutes or rules explicitly authorizing fees for electronic monitoring. Beyond simply authorizing the use of electronic monitoring, these states’ statutes include language that authorizes fees for electronic monitoring as a condition of a person’s pretrial and/or post-sentencing release.
- 29 states expressly authorize electronic monitoring fees for individuals both during the pre-trial and post-sentencing phases.
- New Jersey is the only state that expressly authorizes electronic monitoring fees at the pretrial stage but does not have a statute authorizing electronic monitoring fees at the post-sentencing phase.
- 13 states expressly authorize electronic monitoring fees during the post-sentencing phase but not during the pretrial phase.
Only 2 states expressly prohibit the use of electronic monitoring fees, at least at some stages.
- In 2022, California passed legislation expressly prohibiting the use of electronic monitoring fees.
- Rhode Island expressly prohibits electronic monitoring fees for those not yet convicted of an offense, but still allows it as a condition of a sentence.
Six states & the District of Columbia lack statutory authority for electronic monitoring fees at any point during the criminal legal process, but this is not necessarily preventing electronic monitoring fees.
- The District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont lack explicit statutory authority to impose electronic monitoring fees at any stage. This, however, does not mean that some other authorization may not exist.
- In New York, for example, although there is no explicit statutory authorization for electronic monitoring fees, case law holds that an implicit authorization exists, absent legislation to the contrary. Electronic monitoring fees, both probation location monitoring and alcohol monitoring devices, are being charged in some New York counties.
- Oregon amended its statute to eliminate language that had previously permitted charging fees related to electronic monitoring at any stage. However, simply removing authorizing language (rather than prohibiting the practice) may not be enough to end the practice.
- At the pretrial level, there was no explicit statutory or rule-based authorization for electronic monitoring fees in 20 states or DC. At the post-sentencing stage, the codes lacked explicit authorization for electronic monitoring fees in eight states and DC. Again, this does not necessarily mean that such fees are not assessed in those states; it merely means we were unable to identify legislative authorization for it.
At least 26 states have statutes or rules that impose fees to cover the costs of an electronic monitoring program without specifying an amount.
- Some states simply authorize a “reasonable fee,” which ultimately allows the electronic monitoring provider — whether a governmental agency or private for-profit company — to set any fee it deems appropriate, with little or no oversight to check such decisions. Similarly, other statutes require only that electronic monitoring monitoring fees be “associated with the cost of monitoring,” which is wholly undefined and could conceivably include the costs of the devices, supervision fees, administrative fees, staff salaries, overhead, and a host of other amorphous and unregulated expenses.
23 states do not statutorily require that someone’s ability to pay be considered when assessing electronic monitoring fees.
- Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri & Nevada are the only four states with statutes that expressly mandate consideration of a person’s ability to pay in both the pretrial and post-sentencing stage when assessing electronic monitoring fees.
Read and download the full report, Electronic Monitoring Fees: A 50-State Survey of the Costs Assessed to People on E-Supervision.
For media inquiries, contact Jag Davies.