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MoJ assesses GPS tagged offender behaviour

31/10/16

Ministry of Justice launches two pilots to monitor how electronic tags can contribute to rehabilitation

Two 12-month pilots have got under way aimed at understanding how GPS tags can affect the behaviour or offenders and decision makers in the criminal justice system.

Electronic tag over an ankleThe National Offender Management Service published a toolkit last week for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) pilots, outlining the priorities in how the use of the tags could improve rehabilitation.

The technology has been in use for monitoring the movements of offenders for some, largely to ensure they stay away from specific locations and abide by curfews. But the MoJ is now attempting to obtain a stronger understanding of how the tags affect the behaviour of offenders made to wear them.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “These previously announced GPS tagging pilots will increase our understanding of how new technology could be used more effectively to monitor suspects and offenders in the future. We will await the results of the trials."

The toolkit document says it could also assess other potential benefits, and that there is a “real potential” to stabilise the growth in the number of offenders being sent to prison.

“It will be critical for decision makers that we can demonstrate that GPS tagging is a viable and useful alternative to custody,” it says.

Differing focus

The pilots are focusing on different issues for the two areas. The one covering Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Leicester and the West Midlands is looking at how the tags work for court imposed bail, community orders, suspended sentence orders and Parole Board cases. In area two, covering Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, it is looking at recall cases, early release home detention curfews and Parole Board cases.

Both are only using adult offenders, with a budget for 1,500 tags in all, although the document says they may not all be used.

A GPS ‘tag’ is a device that is worn around the ankle. It is used to monitor the location of the subject who is wearing it 24 hours a day via a satellite signal which can accurately pinpoint the subject’s location.

GPS tags are designed to be difficult to remove and if an attempt is made to do so, or if the tag is removed by unauthorised personnel, this will generate an alert to a monitoring centre.

Image by Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick, CC BY-SA 3.0 through Wikimedia

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