New Terrain for Surveillance in Prisons: Wearable Monitoring, Tablets, and Technological Limits on Human Contact 

A Discussion with Beryl Lipton, Daniel Schwarz, and Nila Bala

April 17, 2024 at 4:30pm ET (virtual)
Click here to register for the Zoom

Surveillance is an integral part of jails and prisons. From closed-circuit camera systems to daily counts of the population, strip searches and cell searches, incarcerated people are monitored more closely, more invasively, and more regularly than nearly any other population. Over the last few decades, organizers and policymakers have been working to shift conditions of incarceration while also reducing the footprint of the U.S. carceral system, including by implementing policies to reduce restrictions and incorporate new forms of technology into jails and prisons to improve connection to the outside world. Educational opportunities and programming in jails and prisons have been shown to have promising effects on reducing future criminal system contact and preparing people to return to their communities. But while the introduction of tablets, phone calls, and other wearable tech may have benefits including more availability of educational modules and more family contact, it also invites more opportunities for profiteering and surveillance—including using jails and prisons as sites of experimentation by corporate interests before wider disbursement of technology to law enforcement. And these kinds of technologies may come with additional policies of surveillance: for example, the introduction of e-messaging or digital mail may coincide with policies that obstruct access to physical mail. Join our panel to discuss the role of technology in surveillance in jails and prisons.

Spring 2024 Speaker Series: Surveillance, Criminalization, and Punishment


More than two decades into the twenty-first century, technological innovations are beginning to outpace even our imaginations. What do these developments mean for the present and future of community safety, racial justice, and the balance of power between communities and the state? In Spring 2024, we’ll explore the promise and peril of new forms of surveillance in the criminal legal system—how advances in technology may improve and/or hinder accuracy and efficiency in law enforcement; allow for reductions in physical barriers of incarceration and detention, while also enabling carceral infrastructure to seep from behind bars out into communities; and herald new discriminatory targeting, deepening or compounding existing inequities. Will modern surveillance, AI, predictive policing, facial recognition, and more shrink the criminal legal system’s footprint or expand criminalization into new domains? On balance, will new technology improve our flawed systems or entrench existing and new harms? We’ll be joined by academics, practitioners, and impacted community members to unpack cutting-edge technological advancements in criminalization and punishment—exploring improvements to the administration of justice and the reproduction of hierarchies of control and domination.

This virtual seminar series takes place on Wednesdays at 4:30pm ET and is open to all. Click here to register for the Zoom.

February 14
Profiling in a Digital Age: Facial Recognition, Video Surveillance, and Policing 
Guest: Deborah Raji 

March 6
New Technology and Big Data: Equitable and Objective Advancements, or Net Widening and False Promises of Reform? 
Guests: Sarah Brayne and Nicol Turner Lee

March 13
Police Social Media Monitoring: The New Undercover Assignment
Guests: Rachel Levinson-Waldman and Josh Raisler Cohn

April 10
Digitally Mapping Social Networks: RICO, Electronic Monitoring, and Surveillance of Gangs and Protest Movements
Guests: Babe Howell and Micah Herskind

April 17
New Terrain for Surveillance in Prisons: Wearable Monitoring, Tablets, and Technological Limits on Human Contact 
Guests: Beryl Lipton, Daniel Schwarz, and Nila Bala

May 8
Toward Data Justice: Countermobilization and Community Control
Guests: Trina Reynolds-Tyler, Shakeer Rahman, and Cynthia Conti-Cook



The Surveillance, Criminalization, and Punishment  speaker series is organized by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and  Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice; Faculty Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy; Professor of Sociology; and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute.