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Pretrial Electronic Monitoring in San Francisco

POLICY REPORT: Pretrial Electronic Monitoring in San Francisco

PRESS RELEASE: New report finds San Francisco dramatically increased use of pretrial electronic monitoring during past four years

Pretrial electronic monitoring (pretrial EM) is a digital surveillance program that tracks the location and movements of people released to the community while they await the resolution of their criminal case. A locked plastic bracelet is attached to the person’s ankle, which includes a GPS tracking device that notifies the Sheriff’s Office if the person is not complying with the terms of their release. This report covers the characteristics and outcomes of people released by the courts to pretrial EM in San Francisco between 2018 and 2021.

Select Media Coverage

San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. ankle monitor program to track crime suspects is failing. Cases of repeat offenders show why (Feb 15, 2024)

Key Findings

1. The use of pretrial EM increased more than twenty-fold between 2017 and 2021. San Francisco rarely used pretrial EM prior to 2018, averaging 75 cases per year. In 2018, more than 550 cases were released to pretrial EM and the annual caseload increased to more than 1,650 in 2021.


2. Overall since 2018, 38% of completed pretrial EM cycles were successful, and the remaining 62% were terminated for failing to comply with the terms of their release.


3. People who are unhoused/unstably housed are less likely to successfully complete EM: overall, 21% of unhoused/unstably housed people completed, compared to 48% of people identified as housed.


4. Terminations from pretrial EM often happen in the first two weeks of the program. Individuals who terminate have a median number of days on pretrial EM of 15 days.

This cumulative distribution line graph shows the share of EM cycles that terminated by days on pretrial EM. The figure shows the risk of termination is highest in the first few weeks, but then begins to taper off after about 3 months, staying at about 60% of cycles terminating.

Suggested Citation: Skogg, A., Lacoe, J., (2022). Pretrial Electronic Monitoring in San Francisco. California Policy Lab.

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