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State proposed budget includes funding for live-tracking bracelets for prisoners

Person in orange jumpsuit sitting behind prison bars
Lightfield Studios
Adobe Stock

Governor Whitmer’s proposed budget includes $40 million in funding for a live inmate tracking system as well as a secure Wi-Fi network throughout the prisons.

The Wi-Fi and tracking bracelets are an attempt to streamline the record-keeping system in Michigan prisons, officials say.

The bracelets, which they say will resemble fitness trackers, will replace paper passes that are currently used to track inmates movements.

During a February 16 House subcommittee meeting, Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington said the network will keep real-time updates on prisoners, their activities and their locations as well as provide educational opportunities to inmates.

Washington says the current strategies for record-keeping are staff intensive.

"This isn’t about escapes or that we can’t determine when somebody is missing. It’s a way to modernize the system so that we can be assured that people are checking in and be sure people are in the right place at the right time," Washington said.

State Rep. Cynthia Johnson says she has real issues with the bracelets and that it is treating prisoners like animals.

"If you can’t tell me that there’s people in the prison system coming up missing, this to me should be totally eliminated from your budget," Johnson said.

The proposed budget will need to be approved by the Michigan Legislature.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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