In virtually all areas of law, the home is the ultimate constitutionally protected area, at least in theory. In practice, a range of modern institutions that target private life—from public housing to child welfare—have turned the home into a routinely surveilled space. Indeed, for the 4.5 million people on criminal court supervision, their home is their prison, or what I call a “carceral home.” Often in the name of decarceration, prison walls are replaced with restrictive rules that govern every aspect of private life and invasive surveillance technology that continuously records intimate information. While prisons have always been treated in the law as sites of punishment and diminished privacy, homes have not. Yet in the carceral home people have little privacy in the place where they presumptively should have the most. If progressive state interventions are to continue, some amount of home surveillance is surely inevitable. But these trends raise a critical, underexplored question: When the home is carceral, what is, or should be, left of the home as a protected area?
This Article addresses that question. Descriptively, it draws on a fifty-state analysis of court supervision rules to reveal the extent of targeted invasions of intimate life in the name of rehabilitation or an alternative to prison, rendering the home a highly surveilled space. Normatively, it argues that allowing this state of affairs with no corresponding adaptations in legal doctrine is untenable. With the home no longer sacred and no limiting principle to take its place, millions of people are left with no meaningful protection from government surveillance, even (or especially) in their home. Left unchecked, the carceral home further entrenches the precise racial, economic, disability, and gender inequities that often inspire reform efforts. Instead, as this Article recommends, privacy and security must be recognized as positive entitlements separate from physical homes.
GW Paper Series
103 B.U. L. Rev. 1879 (2023)