212925: Isolated identification
Jia has been under home confinement since July 18th of 2011. The authorities use an electronic monitor on her ankle to monitor her activitiesandlimither movement. Jia broke the law: she was convicted of the possession and use of drugs. Some people might see home confinement as a fairly lenient sentence: after all, at least Jia is not in prison, where she might be forced to share space with violent criminals. However, her crime was a victimless crime: a crime that only hurt herself, due to her use of illegal drugs. Yet Jia is forced to be isolated from society, under house arrest for two years. This seems a very severe punishment for a victimless crime.
Most times of the day, Jia is not allowed to physically leave her apartment. She can only contact her friends and family through the Internet and hercellular phone. This kind of contact is now available to people under home confinement, due to the many technological media tools that are now so widely available. Some might argue that this means that Jia still has access to interactivity with other people. However, Kiousis points out that interactivity is not simply human: it is a combination of human and technological forces (Gane and Beer 93). Jia still has the technology, but she has lost an important part of the human aspect of interactivity. And as Kiousis also makes clear, interactivity is a very important aspect of communication. Although people are allowed to come to visit Jia, she can no longer participate in any social events. Thus, the electronic monitor has a profound impact on her
“… the relationality of signs is to be lifted from the realm of semiotics and extended to the analysis ofmaterial forms, such as common everyday objects.” (Gane and Beer 28)
While the monitor is not an everyday object, it is just a material form – but this material form is having a very negative impact on Jia’s ability to be a social actor and participate in social networks.
Jia has the ability to contribute to society, and she is very willing to do so. However, the electronic monitor on her ankle is not only limiting her physical movement, but also preventing her from fully participating in her society. She is not able to do the job she had before home confinement, which was teaching the piano. Thus she has suddenly become an “other,” and is not fully accepted or recognised within society. Her identity has been reduced to that of a criminal, but this does not reflect the totality of who she really is.Although Jia is allowed to continue her studies by attending the Main Street Adult Centre, she is now perceived as “other” by her classmates. People whisper about the electronic monitor on her ankle, and wonder is she has committed any violent or serious crimes.Liberty is one of the highest political goals of a civilized society. Yet Jia has been deprived of her liberty – and all for a victimless crime that has no negative impact on society!
Jia understands she deserved to be punished for breaking the law, but she does not believe she deserves home confinement. This kind of punishment serves only to isolate people from society, without providing any solutions or any benefits to the public. Serving a sentence of home confinement for a victimless crime does not protect the public. Even if Jia werefree, she would not threaten the public in any way. It therefore serves no useful purpose to isolate her with home confinement.
Isolating perpetrators of victimless crimes from the public does not
protect the public or maintain thepeace. By definition, those who commit victimless crimes are not a threat to the public. However, home confinement does promote social discrimination against the perpetrators. Home confinement erodes the perpetrators’ social networks and detracts from their humanity. It also prevents the perpetrators from contributing to society in a positive way. Thus, home confinement seems to be a harsh, inappropriate and ultimately detrimental sentence for perpetrators of victimless crimes, such as Jia.