The Washington Post Magazine

My GPS-Tracked Life on Parole

James Baimbridge photographed his experience being monitored electronically by the state of Texas

On the weekends, I work at a dog resort where I walk dogs and clean their kennels. One of my favorites is a Rottweiler named General Patton.
By

I was released from the Ferguson Unit, a prison in Madison County, Tex., 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 program — 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.

About electronic monitoring
A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that, at the end of 2015, about 125,000 people in the United States were living with tracking devices — what some people call “e-carceration.” This represented a nearly 140 percent increase from a decade earlier.
An issue written, illustrated and photographed by currently and formerly incarcerated Americans:

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 counselor. 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. I’m not the same person since I gave my life to the Lord in prison. 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.

— James Baimbridge as told to Beatrix Lockwood, the Marshall Project

This photo essay was published in partnership with the Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsroom covering the U.S. criminal justice system.


The monitor has two parts — a little box I strap to my hip and a thick rubber ankle bracelet — that I have to carry with me everywhere. The skin around my ankle gets raw, so sometimes I wear two socks. (James Baimbridge/FTWP)
I participate in the weekly Bible studies at C.H.A.R.M. Prison Ministry’s transitional housing, where I live. We pray together and sing.
A few of the other men who live in our house also have ankle monitors.
During the week, I work as a loader at a window manufacturing company in Houston.
TOP: I participate in the weekly Bible studies at C.H.A.R.M. Prison Ministry’s transitional housing, where I live. We pray together and sing. BOTTOM LEFT: A few of the other men who live in our house also have ankle monitors. BOTTOM RIGHT: During the week, I work as a loader at a window manufacturing company in Houston.

As soon as I got out of prison, my little sister, Jessi Vondra, came from New Mexico to visit me. (James Baimbridge/FTWP)

Photo editing by Dudley M. Brooks. Design by Michael Johnson.

Credits: James Baimbridge, Beatrix Lockwood

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