My Year with an Ankle Monitor

“Hey girl,” I yelled to my dog in the yard. Little did I know that one simple greeting would require me to wear GPS monitoring for a year.

Let me back up. I’ve been off probation for over 3 years now. But when the incident happened, my probation had just begun. I had gone to the court earlier in the day, thinking that I would be sentenced to a jail term. Instead, the judge sentenced me to probation. As upset as I was about the whole situation, I was excited and happy that I wouldn’t spend a day in prison.

I drove to pick up one my daughters from her mother’s house. It was the same house where I had lived with my ex-wife, two daughters and Labrador retriever for the decade prior to my arrest.  We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood where the houses were spread fairly far apart. Our dog was in the yard on an invisible fence. When I called to her, it would have been clear to anyone that’s what I was doing. I honestly didn’t even notice the neighbor across the street and down one house.

The next day, the doorbell of my parents’ home (where I was staying) rang. My probation officer, whom I had met once at this point, was standing there accompanied by another officer. They told me that there was a complaint that I had called out to a child in the neighborhood and as a result, I would be wearing a GPS monitoring device. I explained that I had called to a dog, not a child, but that didn’t matter. I quickly learned the rules of probation – anyone could make an accusation and there would be no further question or chance to explain. When I asked how long I would have to wear the device, I was given a vague response—“we’ll see.” They told me that someone would be coming by later with the GPS monitor and that I would no longer be allowed to drive down the street where my daughters lived.

Not knowing anything about GPS monitors, I didn’t know what to expect, so I was nervous the rest of that day in anticipation. When the technician arrived, she put the ankle monitor on me and explained how I would have to charge the device each day.

Because it really wasn’t a good idea for me to talk with the neighbors, I didn’t approach them or try to get them to understand what really happened. My ex-wife talked with the mother and explained that I had called to the dog. The neighbor said, “I know, but I don’t care.”

Besides the obvious inconvenience of wearing heavy electronics around the ankle, the GPS itself had some serious limitations. I would have to sit still to charge it, a process that could take some time. The charger didn’t quite plug in, so if I tried to sleep while it was charging, there’s a good chance that it would come unplugged.

At the next Probation check-in, I asked some basic questions. “I know I’m not supposed to go to the mall, but I’m not restricted from going to WalMart which is near the mall. Can I still go?” My probation officer informed me that I could, but that I’d have to call each time I went there. And even with the phone call, I would still be on the defensive and have to answer questions at the next probation check-in because the GPS wasn’t quite accurate enough to make the distinction. Each time I’d respond, “no, I didn’t go to the mall.”

Then there was the loss of signal issue. Every time the weather turned bad, I would get a call from the monitoring company telling me that they couldn’t “see” the device and I should go outside. So, in heavy rain, I’d stand outside just so that the GPS could find the signal.

One time I was outside, walking through a big open space and the device instructed me to “go outside now.”  It stressed me out. And if the monitor didn’t really know the basics, who was it protecting?

I wore the device for a year. Charging, going outside, and calling when it looked like I wasn’t compliant, but I was. I constantly had a big bulky piece of equipment on my leg.  It was needless and unnecessary.

It took an emotional toll. I wore long pants even on the hottest days, so the monitor wouldn’t be exposed.

In the meantime, the probation officer who made the determination that a GPS was warranted quickly moved to a new assignment and I had a new probation officer. And of course, she just assumed I was in a GPS for a valid reason.

I never knew when the GPS would be removed or how I could prove that I was not a risk. It was a punishment for something I hadn’t done. It felt like everywhere I turned there was a new risk – not of me potentially doing harm to the community, but of the community taking additional, unwarranted actions against me.

Then, I asked for and was granted permission to fly on an airplane. I asked about the procedure involved in flying with the GPS. Apparently, it would have been a nuisance for the probation officer to figure out how to deal with the logistics.  So, the GPS was taken off. I’ll never know how much longer I would have had to wear the monitor if I hadn’t requested to fly. Was it ever really necessary or did it just provide another false sense of security?

1 thought on “My Year with an Ankle Monitor”

  1. I totally feel what you are saying brother. I completed my term at home while simultaneously worked to support my family using an ankle gps monitor from Those of you serving similar sentences should make every effort to complete it without any delays and without wasting any time.


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