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Microchips not answer for inmates

Microchips not answer for inmates

Implanting devices in dangerous inmates opens door to major constitutional issues

Reinforced concrete walls, razor wire, electrified fencing, alarm systems, armed guards, security cameras and computerized electronic gates should be plenty to keep dangerous prisoners from escaping.

We don't need to go down the slippery constitutional slope of installing microchips in prisoners in case they manage to get past all those measures.

In the wake of this month's escape of two murderers from the Dannemora state prison, some public officials have suggested even more extreme measures are needed to keep inmates in control

On a cable TV news program Friday, Saratoga County state Sen. Kathleen Marchione agreed with a suggestion that inmates be implanted with trackable microchips under their skin, in much the same way livestock and dogs are.

“I think it’s something that we have to have a conversation about,” Marchione told Liz Benjamin of Capital Tonight. “It would make some good sense, at that level, that we should have something that we could track them.”

It seems like a reasonable idea on the surface. With two murderers on the loose and the search costing taxpayers millions, a $5 computer chip seems like a bargain.

At some point, though, we have to understand the difference between price and cost.

What price would we be paying as a society if we opened the door to surgically implanting monitoring devices in people we want to control? We're not talking about ankle bracelets. We're talking about making these part of someone's body.

It won't stop at murderers serving life terms. We'll quickly find all kinds of ways to rationalize the use of these devices.First it will be expanded to all criminals, regardless of their danger to society. It would surely protect society to keep track of burglars or drunken drivers or people with mental health issues. Then we'll authorize imbedded chips for employees, justifying it as a way to ensure greater productivity. Then we'll start putting them in kids in case they get lost or kidnapped. Soon, we’ll all have them.

What happens when a person's jail term or employment expires? Do they go in for surgery to remove the chips? Who keeps track of all these devices and what is the cost? What kind of information will be stored on the chips, and how much information could be collected about an individual? Could these chips go beyond GPS tracking to record conversations that could be monitored?

No, Senator, imbedding computer chips in inmates is not something we have to have a conversation about.

Because once we open the doors to that, we'll have much more to worry about as a society than a rare escape.

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