Electronic tagging

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Electronic tagging is a form of surveillance which uses an electronic device, fitted to the person. For example, an ankle monitor is used for people who have been sentenced to electronic monitoring by a court, or are required to wear a tag upon release from prison. It is also used in healthcare settings with people with dementia and in immigration contexts in some jurisdictions. If the device is based on GPS technology, it is usually attached to a person by a probation officer, law enforcement or a private monitoring services company field officer, and is capable of tracking the wearer's location wherever there is the satellite signal to do so. Electronic monitoring tags can be also used in combination with curfews to confine defendants or offenders to their home as a condition of bail, as a stand-alone order or as a form of early release from prison. The combination of electronic monitoring with a curfew usually relies on radio frequency (RF) technology, which differs from GPS technology.


Conceptual history[edit]

The use of home detention as a means of confinement and control within the home can be traced back to biblical times when the Romans placed Paul the Apostle, under house arrest.[1]

Panopticon: Presidio Modelo prison, inside one of the buildings, 2005

In the 18th century, the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham designed the Panopticon, a hypothetical prison.[2] Inside the Panopticon (the name is derived from the Greek word for "all-seeing"), the prisoners are arranged in a ring of cells surrounding their guard, who is concealed in a tower in the center. The idea is that the guard controls the prisoners through his presumed observation: they constantly imagine his eyes on them, even when he's looking elsewhere.[2]

"[T]he persons to be inspected should always feel themselves as if under inspection ... for the greatest proportion of time possible, each man should actually be under inspection."[3]

Bentham promoted the concept of the Panopticon for much the same reasons that spur criminal-justice innovation today[when?]—a ballooning prison population and the need for a cheap solution with light manpower demands. when the modern prison emerged,[when?] it, too, was promoted as a reform, a positive replacement for corporal or capital punishment.[2]

Early prison reformers—many of them Quakers bent on repentance and redemption— had suggested that cutting people off from the rest of the world would bring them closer to God.[4] (The word "penitentiary" comes, of course, from "penitence.") Whereas the guard in Bentham's day had only two eyes, today's watcher can be virtually all-seeing, thanks to GPS monitoring technology.[2]


In 1964, Ralph Kirkland Schwitzgebel (family name later shortened to "Gable") headed a research team at the Science Committee on Psychological Experimentation at Harvard University. The technologies of electronic monitoring have their roots in his (1968) experiments with prototype electronic monitoring devices. Schwitzgebel and William S. Hurd were granted patent #3,478,344 and published an article informing how such monitoring devices could be used.[5] He developed a one-kilogram Radio Telemetry Device that could be worn by a person.[6] The device transmitted signals to a modified missile-tracking unit up to 400 metres away, which determined the wearer's location on a screen.[7] The Harvard researchers invented and assessed a prototype monitoring system to use upon juvenile offenders.[8] The public responded unfavorably on the whole, fearing that the devices were overly intrusive.[citation needed]

Even in 1966 it was noted that, in theory, the system could be modified to gather and transmit physiological data such as pulse rates, blood alcohol levels, brain waves, or information on other bodily functions of the wearer and, conversely, that information or stimulation could be sent back to the person wearing the transmitting device. It could also be easily adapted to serve as a listening device or two-way radio. The system was tested on volunteers who included students, parolees and mental patients, and experiments along these lines exploring its possibilities were conducted. in 1969 Schwitzgebel was granted a patent in relation to the system.[citation needed]

In 1978, in diversion from its criminal justice application, a company called BI Incorporated began selling systems that allowed dairy farmers to dispense feed to their cows automatically. The company fitted a radio-frequency tag on each cow's ear so that when the cow approached the feed dispenser, a sensor in the latter caused it to drop a ration of fodder. If the same cow returned, the sensor recognized the unique signal of the tag and prevented the cow from getting a second helping until after enough time had passed for her to digest the first.[citation needed]

In 1981, writer Tom Stacey took to the British Home Office a proposal for the electronic tagging of offenders to track their movements, or fix a home curfew, using cellular radio telephone technology. Stacey had been briefly imprisoned abroad in his former role as a foreign correspondent and had for several years served as a "Prison Visitor" in England. In a letter to The Times on 6 October 1982 he outlined the proposal and immediate founded the Offender's Tag Association, composed of electronic scientists, penologists and prominent citizens. The term 'tagging' thus entered the British English vocabulary in the penal context.[citation needed] In March 1983, the Offender's Tag Association held a national press conference.[citation needed]

Later in 1983, a district court judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jack Love, persuaded Michael Goss, a computer salesperson, to develop a system to monitor five offenders. He sentenced offenders in what is considered the first court-sanctioned use of electronic monitoring at home.[citation needed] Judge Love was supposedly inspired to act based upon a storyline in a Spider-Man comic, specifically the newspaper comic strip version where the Kingpin puts an electronic bracelet on the superhero primarily to follow his movements.[9]

Until the widespread adoption of cellular and broadband Internet networks in the US in the mid-1990s, electronic monitoring devices were typically home-based, dependent on a dedicated land line, and able to report only whether or not the criminal being tracked, was remaining at home. This was useful for criminals on work-release, parole, or probation, for example DWI offenders who were allowed to leave home to go to work during daytime hours but had to return home and remain there after a certain time of the evening.

Since the mid-1990s, more recent technology such as GPS and cellular networks have permitted courts to order more specific restrictions, such as permitting a registered child sex offender to leave his home at any time of day, but alerting authorities if they come within 100 metres of a school, park, or playground.

How it works[edit]

Big picture[edit]

Trilateration is the process of determining absolute or relative locations of points by measurement of distances, using the geometry of circles, spheres or triangles.[10]

2-Dimension trilateration[edit]

If someone in the United States completely lost track of where he last was, asked directions in a nearby town and a local tells that he was 625 miles from Boise, Idaho, he could be anywhere on a circle around Boise that has a radius of 625 miles. If he then asked another person and was told that he was 690 miles from Minneapolis, Minnesota, he could combine this with the Boise information in two circles that intersect. He would know that he was at one of the two intersection points. If a third person told him that he was 615 miles from Tucson, Arizona, he could then eliminate the other options, because the third circle would only intersect with one of these points. The same concept works in three-dimensional space, as well, where there is only spheres instead of circles. [11]

3-Dimension trilateration[edit]

Artist's impression of a Navstar-2F satellite in orbit.

If someone knows he is 10 miles from satellite A in the sky, he could be anywhere on the surface of a huge, imaginary sphere with a 10-mile radius. If he also knows he is 15 miles from satellite B, he could overlap the first sphere with another, larger sphere. If he then also knows the distance to a third satellite, he could get a third sphere, which intersects with this circle at two points.[11]

The Earth itself can act as a fourth sphere—only one of the two possible points will actually be on the surface of the planet, so one can eliminate the sphere in space. The GPS receiver figures both of these things out by analyzing high-frequency, low-power radio signals from the GPS satellites.

Radio waves are electromagnetic energy, which means they travel at the speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second, 300,000 km per second in a vacuum). The receiver can figure out how far the signal has traveled by timing how long it took the signal to arrive.[11]

The correct time value will cause all of the signals that the receiver is receiving to align at a single point in space. So the receiver sets its clock to that time value, and it then has the same time value that all the atomic clocks in all of the satellites have. When you measure the distance to four located satellites, you can draw four spheres that all intersect at one point. Three spheres will intersect even if your numbers are way off, but four spheres will not intersect at one point if you've measured incorrectly. The receiver does this constantly whenever it's on, which means it is nearly as accurate as the expensive atomic clocks in the satellites.[11]

In order for the distance information to be of any use, the receiver also has to know where the satellites actually are. Things like the pull of the moon and the sun do change the satellites' orbits very slightly, but the Department of Defense constantly monitors their exact positions and transmits any adjustments to all GPS receivers as part of the satellites' signals.[11]

For one thing, this method assumes the radio signals will make their way through the atmosphere at a consistent speed, the speed of light. Problems can also occur when radio signals bounce off large objects, such as skyscrapers, giving a receiver the impression that a satellite is farther away than it actually is. The station then broadcasts a radio signal to all DGPS-equipped receivers in the area, providing signal correction information for that area.[11]

The most essential function of a GPS receiver is to pick up the transmissions of at least four satellites and combine the information in those transmissions with information in an electronic almanac, all in order to figure out the receiver's position on Earth.[11]

Once the receiver makes this calculation, it can compute the latitude, longitude and altitude (or some similar measurement) of its current position. One can use maps stored in the receiver's memory, connect the receiver to a computer, which can hold more detailed maps in its memory, or one can on a detailed map of an area find one´s way using the receiver's latitude and longitude readouts. A standard GPS receiver will not only place one´s position on a map at any particular location, but also trace one´s path across a map as one moves. If the receiver is switched on, it can stay in constant communication with GPS satellites to see how one´s location is changing.[11]

Small picture[edit]

The portable device is operatively coupled to a monitoring system through a wireless telephone network. The portable device transmits periodically encrypted location information as well as status information across the wireless network to the monitoring system. The monitoring system tracks the location of the individual and alerts the appropriate authorities when the individual violates a rule, such as a condition for parole. The portable device increases the time between transmissions when the individual is within a specified home location and reduces the time between transmissions when outside the specified location.[11]

As a fail-safe against any technological glitch, whether accidental or malicious, a leading Electronic Monitoring operator is immensely proud of its backup systems, which boast an ultra-secure data room and extreme redundancy: For example, if a toxic-gas cloud were to wipe out the town of Anderson, the last act of the staff there would be to flip the switches diverting all call traffic to BI's corporate office in Boulder, Colorado, where a team capable of taking over instantly in case of disaster is always on duty.[2]

Other designs[edit]

Medical and health use[edit]

The use of electronic monitoring in medical practice, especially as it relates to the tagging of the elderly and people with dementia, is capable of generating controversy, and media attention.[12] Elderly people in care homes can be tagged with the same electronic monitors used to keep track of young offenders. For persons suffering from dementia, electronic monitoring might be beneficially used to prevent them from wandering away.[12] The controversy in its medical use relates to two arguments, one as to the safety of the patients, and the other, as to their privacy and human rights.[13] At over 40%, there is a high prevalence of wandering amongst patients with dementia. Of the several methods deployed to keep them from wandering, it is reported that 44% of wanderers with dementia have been kept behind closed doors at some point.[14] Other solutions have included constant surveillance, use of makeshift alarms and, the use of various drugs that carry the risk of adverse effects.[13]

Opinions as to the propriety of electronic tagging of the elderly and persons with dementia vary. Carers welcome the idea of electronic tracking devices so long as it allows wanderers to be found more quickly.[15] Some persons argue that a little liberty can be sacrificed in order to achieve safety and any concern about privacy only has force when we imagine that the person involved is trying to hide.[16] The thinking behind this argument is that, for wandering persons with severe dementia, being electronically tagged and monitored carries less stigma than being found half dressed, in the middle of the night, on a highway.[13] On the other side of the argument, it is contended that even in mild dementia, the need to protect a patient's right to privacy must be maintained. Even though electronic tagging and monitoring increases liberty, in a sense, it may potentially decrease the autonomy of the patient. Tracking may only settle the anxiety of Carers and family without necessarily attending to the needs of the person with dementia. What is important is to determine if persons with dementia have the capacity to make decisions, and if they do, their decisions should be respected. Where the person lacks the capacity, decisions need to be made in their best interest. Best interest in this sense does not simply mean the person's best medical interest. Deciding on their best interest will require careful inquiry, negotiation, and judgment.[13]

Commercial use[edit]

On an iPhone, "Location Services" allows location-based apps and websites (including Maps, Camera, Safari, and other Apple and third-party apps) to use information from Global Positioning System (GPS) networks to determine your approximate location.[17]

Parental use[edit]

A company in Japan has created GPS enabled uniforms and backpacks.[18] School children in distress would be able to hit a button, immediately summoning a security agent to their location. Other similar applications in the U.S. have included mobile phones enabled with GPS tracking, to allow parents to track their school children.[19]

Vehicular use[edit]

Public transit vehicles are outfitted with electronic monitoring devices that talk to GPS systems tracking their locations. App developers have integrated this technology with mobile-phone apps. Now, passengers are able to receive accurate public transit timetables.[20]


The use of ankle bracelets, or other electronic monitoring devices, have proven to be effective in research studies and even deterred crime. As such, they benefit society. When applied early, they may save otherwise habitual offenders from a life of crime.[21]

Several factors have been identified as necessary to render electronic monitoring effective: appropriately selecting offenders, robust and appropriate technology, fitting tags promptly, responding to breaches promptly, and communication between the criminal justice system and contractors.The Quaker Council for European Affairs thinks that for electronic monitoring to be effective, it should serve to halt a developing criminal career.[22]

The National Audit Office in England and Wales commissioned a survey to examine the experiences of electronically monitored offenders and the members of their family. The survey revealed that there was common agreement amongst survey respondents that electronic monitoring was a more effective punitive measure than fines, and that it was generally more effective than community service. An interviewed offender is credited with saying: ‘You learn more about other crimes [in prison] and I think it gives you a taste to do other crimes because you've sat listening to other people'.[23]

Padgett, Bales and Bloomberg study[edit]

In 2006, Kathy Padgett, William Bales and Thomas Bloomberg conducted a well–controlled, large scale evaluation of 75,661 Florida offenders placed on home detention from 1998 to 2002.,[21] a small percentage of whom were made to wear an electronic monitoring device, which allowed comparison between those who were electronically monitored and those who were not. The study controlled for factors thought to influence the success or failure of community supervision: the type of placement, type of electronic monitoring device (GPS or radio frequency), criminal history, offender characteristics, type of primary offence committed by each offender, court- ordered conditions of supervision, the number of weeks absconded, weeks in treatment etc. with a total of 62 variables.[24] The researchers incorporated time-varying independent variables in the estimation of maximum-likelihood coefficients, and also applied proportional-hazards survival analysis to adjust for right-censoring.[24] As of 2010, compared to other studies, no previous study of electronic monitoring controlled such an array of variables nor involved such a large sample.[21]

Regarding their rate of compliance, violent offenders monitored by GPS were 91.2% less likely to abscond than those offenders not monitored at all. Electronic monitoring also effectively prevented offenders from committing new offences while being monitored: monitored offenders were 94.7% less likely to commit new offences than unmonitored offenders. The researchers found ‘no clear evidence that, overall, the decision to monitor offenders on home confinement with enhanced electronic control mechanisms results in ‘front-end' net-widening. In other words, offenders sentenced to home confinement with EM seem to have posed a significantly higher risk to public safety and would have had a higher likelihood of receiving a prison sentence if not for the availability of EM as an enhanced control mechanism.' In the end, GPS monitored offenders are 90.2% less likely than offenders on home confinement without EM to be revoked for a technical violation.[24]

Another major advantage is the fact that wide deployment of electronic monitoring may lead to reduced prison populations. This is most likely where monitoring is used as an alternative to prison, rather than to enhance existing non-custodial orders. Major cost savings may be achieved through building fewer prisons as well as reducing the cost of administering custodial sentences.

Another is the possibility of improving rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. Electronic monitoring may allow more offenders to maintain employment and contact with their families. It also avoids any negative psychological effects of incarceration, although of course the wearing of a device carries its own psychological pressures.

GPS jamming[edit]

In late 2009, satellite-positioning receivers for a new navigation system at Newark airport in New Jersey were suffering brief daily breaks in reception.[25][26] Something was interfering with the signals from orbiting global positioning system (GPS) satellites. A driver who passed by on the nearby New Jersey Turnpike each day used a cheap GPS jammer in his truck. Jammers prevent tracking devices from determining (and then reporting) its location.

Some truck companies use fleet management software integrated with GPS in vehicles to monitor whether their drivers ever break speed limits, and in response, some delivery drivers buy illegal GPS jammers to subvert the system.[27][28][29]


A number of criticisms of the technology exist - some "Tough on Crime" groups argue that electronic tagging perceived as lenient, while other groups argue that the technology enables Net-widening, where non-prison bound individuals are subject to increased monitoring.

Electronic monitoring does not physically restrain a person and dangerous offenders are still able to offend before authorities can intervene. Home detention with electronic monitoring is perceived by some people as lenient.[7]

As early as 1988, the Penal Affairs Committee of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), wrote a briefing in its Green Paper strongly opposing the adoption of electronic monitoring in England and Wales.[30] The Committee noted all the claims made in favour of electronic monitoring but insisted that all such claims could be ‘either demolished or rendered invalid' by arguments against it. The major argument or criticism against it was that on the basis of past experience, electronic monitoring would not absolutely be used on people at risk of custody, but on people who would otherwise have been granted probation or community service. This would lead to a widening of the net of control rather than reducing prison population; it would undermine constructive and supportive interventions. The Penal Committee concluded that the degrading monitoring of fellow human beings, electronically, was morally wrong and unacceptable.[31] They argued that the system was inherently ‘retributive and punitive' and the wearing of an ankle monitor would be stigmatizing for women offenders.[32]

In the US in 1990, Ronald Corbett and Gary T. Marx criticised the use of electronic monitoring in a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Baltimore. In the paper, which was later published in the Justice Quarterly, the authors described ‘the new surveillance' technology as sharing some ethos and the information-gathering techniques found in maximum-security prisons thereby allowing them to diffuse into the broader society. They remarked that ‘we appear to be moving toward, rather than away from, becoming a "maximum-security society."'[33] The authors acknowledged the data-mining capacity of electronic monitoring devices when they stated that ‘data in many different forms, from widely separated geographical areas, organizations, and time periods, can easily be merged and analyzed.'[33]

In 2013, it was reported that many electronic-monitoring programs throughout the US were not staffed appropriately.[34] George Drake, a consultant who worked on improving the systems said ‘Many times when an agency is budgeted for electronic-monitoring equipment, it is only budgeted for the devices themselves.' He added that the situation was ‘like buying a hammer and expecting a house to be built. It's simply a tool, and it requires a professional to use that tool and run the program.' Drake warned that programs can get out of control if officials don't develop stringent protocols for how to respond to alerts and don't manage how alerts are generated: ‘I see agencies with so many alerts that they can't deal with them,' Drake said. ‘They end up just throwing their hands up and saying they can't keep up with them.' In Colorado, a review of alert and event data, obtained from the Colorado Department of Corrections under an open-records request, was conducted by matching the names of parolees who appeared in that data with those who appeared in jail arrest records. The data revealed that 212 parole officers were saddled with the duty of responding to nearly 90,000 alerts and notification generated by electronic monitoring devices in the six months reviewed.[34]

According to an analysis in the Journal of Law and Policy, most of those placed on electronic monitors haven't committed serious or violent offenses and, were it not for monitoring, "at least some of these populations would not in fact be incarcerated or otherwise under physical control." Eighty-nine percent of probation officers surveyed by the Justice Department felt that "offenders' relationships with their significant others changed because of being monitored." Both officers and those monitored observed that the ankle band had a distinct impact on children. As one parent testified, "When it beeps, the kids worry about whether the probation officer is coming to take me to jail. The kids run for it when it beeps."

Movies, literature and the arts[edit]

As a condition for her bail, Gabrielle Baillieux, the protagonist in Peter Carey's Amnesia, had to wear an ankle monitor. Later a colleague took it off. The device was transferred to a dog, whose movements were instead tracked.[35]

In The Good Wife, ("Bang") season 1 episode 15, Peter had been imprisoned for several months after being convicted of charges of corruption. He is allowed to return home under house arrest while his appeal is considered. Peter must wear an ankle monitor and cannot leave the apartment or communicate with the outside world.[36]

In the 2007 American mystery horror-thriller movie, Disturbia, a 17-year-old high school student, Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf), is charged with aggravated assault after his teacher made a personal remark about his dad, who had died in a car accident, and Kale is sentenced to three months of house arrest. He is secured with an ankle monitor and allowed only 100 feet from his house.[citation needed]

Notable instances[edit]

English professional footballer Jermaine Pennant played a Premier League match in 2005 while wearing an electronic tag; he had received the tag for drink-driving and driving while disqualified.[37]

Lindsay Lohan failed to appear at a mandatory hearing, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. The judge ordered Lohan to wear a SCRAM bracelet, an electronic device that monitors the bloodstream for alcohol and drugs and alerts authorities if prohibited substances are consumed.[38]

Roman Polanski, one of the most famous fugitives from American justice in the world was finally arrested in Switzerland. The terms of his release included $4.5 million bail, house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet at his chalet, known as Milky Way, in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, after having spent sixty-seven days in a Zurich detention centre.[39]

Bernard Madoff, the financier accused in a $50 billion fraud case before trial was ordered under house arrest, with electronic monitoring, and posting $10 million bail against his $7 million Manhattan apartment, and against his wife's homes in Montauk, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla.[40]

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former International Monetary Fund chief, charged with trying to rape a hotel maid May 14, 2011. On release from jail, arranged for house arrest, with a private security company that kept him under armed guard and electronic monitoring as conditions of his bail. Prosecutors estimated the cost at $200,000 a month, which he was responsible for paying.[2]

Dr. Dre in 1992, the rapper was arrested for assaulting record producer Damon Thomas and later pleaded guilty to assault on a police officer, eventually serving house arrest and wearing a police-monitoring ankle bracelet.[41]



The U.S. correctional system is overwhelmed by the over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders such as drug users. Private-prison corporations themselves have begun to expand into the "alternatives" industry. The GEO Group now has an array of "community reëntry services" and treatment programs.[42] In 2011, it acquired the country's largest electronic-monitoring firm, BI Incorporated, for $415 million.[42] For the most part, these companies deal not with felony probationers ("probation" as it is usually understood) but with people whose offenses are often too minor to merit jail time. The system is known as "offender-funded" justice.[42]

Jack Long, a Georgia attorney, filed a habeas petition on behalf of a client who, after stealing a two-dollar can of beer from a convenience store, was ordered to spend a year wearing an ankle bracelet operated by a company called Sentinel Offender Services.[42] The man wound up owing more than a thousand dollars to the company in fees and late-payment penalties, and started selling his blood plasma to keep pace. Dozens of probationers are jailed because of electronic-monitoring bills, most of which were not authorized by any legal statute.[42]

United Kingdom[edit]

Electronic monitoring of a curfew has become an integral part of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom, used at various stages of criminal cases used to monitor compliance with a curfew, requiring the curfewee to remain in their home for a specified number of hours a day or exclusion from specified areas (such as victim's homes and football grounds).

Those subject to electronic monitoring may be given curfews as part of Bail conditions, sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in England and Wales (with separate legislation applying in Scotland). Alternatively offenders may be released from a prison on a Home Detention Curfew. Released prisoners under home detention allowed out during curfew hours only for:

  1. A wedding or funeral (service only) of a close relative
  2. A job interview
  3. Acting as a witness in court
  4. Emergencies.[43]

Additionally, electronic monitoring may be used for those subject to a curfew given under the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (previously known as Control order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005[44])

Since electronically monitored curfews were rolled out throughout England and Wales their use has increased sharply, from 9,000 cases in 1999-2000 to 53,000 in 2004-05. In 2004-05, the Home Office spent £102.3 million on the electronic monitoring of curfews and electronically monitored curfews are considered cheaper than custody.[45] Ninety days in custody (e.g., a prison) costs approximately five times more than the same amount of time on an electronically monitored curfew order.

Typically, offenders are fitted with an electronic tag around their ankle which sends a regular signal to a receiver unit installed in their home. Some systems are connected to a fixed telephone line in the case where a GSM signal is not available, whilst most arrangements utilise the mobile phone system to communicate with the monitoring company. If the tag is not functioning or within range of the base station during curfew hours, or if the base is disconnected from the power supply, or the base station is moved then the monitoring company are alerted, who in turn, notify the appropriate authority such as the Law enforcement in the United Kingdom, National Probation Service or Prison.[46]

In 2012, the Policy Exchange thinktank examined the use of electronic monitoring in England and Wales and made comparisons with technologies and models seen in other jurisdictions, particularly the United States. The report was critical of the Ministry of Justice's model of a fully privatised service - which gave little scope for police or probation services to make use of electronic monitoring. The report, Future of Corrections, also criticised the cost of the service, highlighting an apparent differential between what the UK taxpayer was charged and what could be found in the United States.[47] At the time of publication the Ministry of Justice was completing a procurement exercise for a new generation of GPS tags - and the report described the exercise as flawed, calling on electronic monitoring to be commissioned locally via Police and Crime Commissioners.

Subsequently, there were a number of scandals in relation to electronic monitoring in England and Wales, with a criminal investigation opened by the Serious Fraud Office into the activities of Serco and G4S.[48] As a result of the investigation, Serco agreed to repay £68.5 million to the taxpayer and G4S agreed to repay £109 million.[49] The duopoly were subsequently stripped of their contract, with Capita taking over the contract. In 2017, another criminal investigation saw police make a number of arrests in relation to allegations that at least 32 criminals on tag had paid up to £400 to Capita employees in order to have 'loose' tags fitted, allowing them to remove their tags.[50]

The monitoring of sex offenders via electronic tagging is currently in debate due to certain rights offenders have in England and Wales.[51]

Electronic tagging has begun being used on psychiatric patients, prompting concern from mental health advocates who state that the practice is demeaning.[52]

In Scotland, those convicted of a serious sexual or violent crime, and are determined to pose a serious danger to the community, are to be given a sentence, known as an Order for Lifelong Restriction, which means that the offender will be detained indefinitely, until the Parole Board for Scotland determines that the offender no longer poses a risk to the safety of others. If the offender is released on parole, he or she is to be electronically tagged and kept under close supervision by the Scottish Parole Board for the remainder of the offender's life.



In Western Australia, The Bail Act 1982 (WA) specifically provides for electronic monitoring at the pre-trial stage. The Act allows only judicial officers to impose a home detention. This is done after first obtaining a suitability report, from a corrections officer, on accused persons aged over 17. The accused person may then be required to wear a device or permit the installation of a device in the place where he/she is required to remain.

In most Australian jurisdictions, the generally broad discretion available when imposing bail conditions may permit electronic monitoring.[53] For instance, in section 11(2) of the South Australian Bail Act 1985, the bail authority may 'impose a condition requiring an accused person to remain at his or her residence except for authorised activities such as employment.'[7] The Supreme Court of South Australia, it is thought,[7] may have interpreted this as authority to order electronically monitored bail, at least where the applicant is willing.[54]

Primary sentencing[edit]

The Northern Territory and Western Australia have laws that specifically authorize electronic monitoring as a primary sentencing option for home detention. The Sentencing Act 1995, of the Northern Territory, provides that a 'court which sentences an offender to a term of imprisonment may make an order suspending the sentence on the offender entering into a home detention order'. Such offenders may be required to 'wear or have attached an approved monitoring device in accordance with the directions of the Commissioner, and allow the placing, or installation in, and retrieval from, the premises or place specified in the order of such machine, equipment or device necessary for the efficient operation of the monitoring device'.[55]

In Western Australia, the Sentencing Act 1995 provides that a court may impose an intensive supervision order with a curfew requirement. The offender is required to submit to surveillance or monitoring as ordered;[56] wear a device or have a device installed in his or her home.[57] Electronic monitoring 'may only be imposed for a term of six months or less'.

In New South Wales, although the law does not specifically authorise electronic monitoring, the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW), however, grants the court the power to 'impose such conditions as it considers appropriate on any home detention order made by it'.[58] In practice, electronic monitoring is used to enforce these home detention orders.[59] The general powers of court may also allow electronic monitoring in other States and Territories.[7]


In August 2010, Brazil awarded a GPS Offender Monitoring contract to kick start its monitoring of offenders and management of the Brazilian governments early release programme[60]

South Africa[edit]

Electronic monitoring as a pilot project was started in March 2012, involving 150 offenders, mostly prisoners serving life terms. The project was rolled out to reduce the South Africa's prison population. It consequently would also reduce the taxpayer's burden on correctional facilities.[61] South Africa locks up more people than any other country on the continent.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gibbs, Anita; King, Denise (2003). "The electronic ball and chain? The operation and impact of home detention with electronic monitoring in New Zealand". Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology. 36 (1): 1–17. doi:10.1375/acri.36.1.1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wood (2010)[citation needed]
  3. ^ Jeremy Bentham, The Panopticon Writings 41 (Miran Bozovic ed., 1995) (1995).
  4. ^ Schenwar, Maya. "The Quiet Horrors of House Arrest, Electronic Monitoring, and Other Alternative Forms of Incarceration". Mother Jones. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  5. ^ Gable, Ralph K.; Gable, Robert S. (June 2005). "Electronic Monitoring: Positive Intervention Strategies". Federal Probation.
  6. ^ Black & Smith (2003), p. 254
  7. ^ a b c d e Black & Smith (2003)
  8. ^ Robert S. Gable, Left to Their Own Devices: Should Manufacturers of Offender Monitoring Equipment be Liable for Design Deject?, 2009 U. ILL. J.L. TECH. & POLY 333, 335
  9. ^ QI Transcript, Season 4 Episode 8 Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. QI, Transcript on qitranscripts.com; Broadcast 2006; Accessed 25 September 2007
  10. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brian, Marshall; Harris, Tom. "How GPS Receivers Work". How Stuff Works.
  12. ^ a b "Electronic tagging for Alzheimer's". BBC News. 27 September 2002.
  13. ^ a b c d Julian C Hughes and Stephen J Louw, ‘Electronic Tagging of People with Dementia who Wander: Ethical Considerations are Possibly more Important than Practical Benefits' (2002) 325(7369) British Medical Journal 847﹘848 <PubMed>
  14. ^ McShane R et al, ‘Getting Lost in Dementia: A Longitudinal Study of a Behavioral Symptom' (1998) 5 International Psychogeriatrics 239﹘245
  15. ^ McShane R et al, ‘The Feasibility of Electronic Tracking Devices in Dementia: A Telephone Survey and Case Series' (1998) 13 International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 556﹘563.
  16. ^ McShane R, Hope T and Wilkinson J, ‘Tracking Patients Who Wander: Ethics and Technology' (1994) 343 Lancet 1274.
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  • Black, Matt; Smith, Russell G. (2003). "Electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system". Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (PDF). 254. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. pp. 241–260. ISBN 0-642-53801-8.
  • Penal Affairs Committee (1988). "Electronic tagging: a briefing paper". Quaker Social Responsibility and Education Journal. X (3): 13–19.

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