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Monitoring bracelet business boom in Brazil

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(25 Aug 2017) Brazil's mega-corruption scandal that has ensnared much of its political and economic elite has one sector of its struggling economy booming: the sale of electronic monitoring bracelets.Wealthy businessmen or politicians caught up in the massive "Car Wash" investigation are often serving time at home, either by reaching plea bargains or appealing. That has made the use of bracelets much more common, not only by requiring them for high-profile convicts but by raising awareness about them with judges who are increasingly using them in other cases to ease dangerous overcrowding in Brazil's prisons.Launched in March 2014, the sprawling "Car Wash" probe has brought down scores of the country's elite. Top executives at state oil company Petrobras and construction companies like Odebrecht formed a cartel that would decide on the granting of inflated contracts, and which politicians and other officials would receive kickbacks. Over the course of a decade, more than 3 billion US dollars in bribes were doled out, according to authorities.When the probe began, fewer than 10,000 inmates were under house surveillance in a handful of the country's most affluent states, according to the companies that provide the bracelets. Today there are more than 24,000 prisoners using devices in 22 out of 27 states. That number is expected to balloon to more than 120,000 in five years. One of the driving reasons is cost: monitoring an inmate with a bracelet costs about 200 US dollars a month, about a fourth of the cost of prison.The bracelets themselves cost between 30 and 120 US dollars, which is paid for by the state where the prisoner is held.They weigh less than a 1 pound, and sensitive bands go around the ankle, alerting monitors if removed.At a Synergye, one of the leading bracelet companies, about 20 workers recently followed prisoners on computer screens from their office in Sao Paulo. But the bracelets are raising the question of fairness: Why should the rich or powerful get the chance to serve their sentences at comfortable homes while the poor have to endure prison?Brazil has the fourth biggest inmate population in the world, with more than 600,000 prisoners in a system that often places white-collar and other non-violent offenders in the same penitentiaries as drug lords and leaders of violent gangs.Riots in several prisoners earlier this year left at least 125 dead.Others question the effectiveness of the bracelets.Despite the criticism, the market for the bracelets will likely continue to grow as the "Car Wash" probe shows no signs of letting up.The four major Brazilian companies offering the service have been so successful that some are expanding to other Latin American countries.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4112556 9e6164379196259fb6c3f76db78cb413 Brazil Electronic Bracelet Brazil Latin America and Caribbean Sao Paulo
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