GPS-tracked life: What’s is like to be electronically monitored on parole

James Baimbridge

THE WASHINGTON POST – I was released from the Ferguson Unit, a prison in Madison County, Texas, in April, but in many ways I am still confined. As part of my parole, I wear a GPS monitor on my ankle that tracks my whereabouts.

When I’m not home – right now, that’s transitional housing in the Houston area run by a religious programme – I’m allowed to go only to work, church, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and, once a week, the store.

If I deviate from my itinerary, which I give to my parole officer a week ahead of time, I could get arrested.

I’m on some of the most intense monitoring in Texas, the kind that’s used for violent offenders. I was convicted in 2014 of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and felony possession of a firearm.

I struggle to navigate my daily life being constrained like this. It makes it hard to do simple things like keep a job, get a car or even come up with enough money to cover parole fees, food and bills.

ABOVE & BELOW: James Baimbridge works as a loader at a window manufacturing company in Houston; and the GPS monitor has two parts — a little box James Baimbridge straps to his hip and a thick rubber ankle bracelet — that he has to carry everywhere. PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST

A few of the men who live in Prison Ministry’s transitional housing with ankle monitors

And the monitor malfunctions sometimes. I’ve had it go off in the middle of the night, and my parole officer called me asking where I was. I said, “I’m in bed.” They’re constantly trying to prove that you’re up to no good.

If nothing else, I’ve learned discipline from this experience. Even in prison, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with worry, like I do now, about doing something wrong.

When it comes off in March, I want to get a license to be a chemical dependency counsellor. And I want to spend more time with my father’s side of the family, whom I just reconnected with after all these years.

I’m not scared to tell people about my situation because I know who I am now.

But for people who aren’t used to someone who has been incarcerated, it worries them. They think: You must have done something real bad to have to wear that.