Prof. Dr. Frieder Dünkel and Christoph Thiele (University of Greifswald, Germany)
German sentencing practice is very reluctant to employ Electronic Monitoring (EM). Although German law provides several legal possibilities for wider use, there has only been limited use of Electronic Monitoring (EM) since the first pilot projects in the early 2000s. In Germany, EM is not seen as a way to relieve prison overcrowding.
The German EM practice can be divided into two fields of application:
GPS Satellite Tracking (EAÜ = “elektronische Aufenthaltsüberwachung”)
GPS satellite tracking is the only type of EM used nationwide. It was implemented in 2011 and is currently used as a possible instrument in the scope of “supervision of conduct”. In this case, EM is not applied as an independent criminal sanction but a directive for high-risk violent or sexual offenders after their release from prison or forensic psychiatric institution. In other words, EM-GPS based supervision aims to reduce the danger of further serious offending.
There are currently less than 70 offenders under EM-GPS.
Radio Frequency EM (EPK = “elektronische Präsenzkontrolle”)
The federal state of Hesse has been using Radio Frequency EM (RF-EM) as a pilot project since 2000. Unlike the federal approach, the Hessian approach is a ‘front end’ strategy. In this context, EM is mainly used as a measure in combination with a suspended sentence or in combination with suspension of the execution of a pre-trial detention. In particular RF-EM aims to encourage the person under EM to follow a structured daily routine. However, the pilot project has not been well received and has therefore never been expanded to other federal states.
In Hesse there are currently about 50 people under EPK-EM.
About Our Research
We are now in the last stage of our empirical fieldwork. Our research was subdivided into two segments. From December 2014 to March 2015 we primarily focused on GPS Satellite Tracking (EAÜ-EM). Following this, we turned our research towards the Hessian approach.
Within the last few months we have gained insight into the technical and administrative organisation of the German EM practice, by observing the agencies involved in Hesse, Munich and Rostock. We have also collected a wide range of views on the use of EM and its role in the German sanction system. This was achieved by interviewing political actors, probation officers, fieldwork and technical staff involved in EM. In our research, we will highlight in particular the link between probation work and monitoring.
At this point in our research, a combination of different factors already seems to explain why EM is seen as a “last resort” solution in Germany and why it plays a minor role in the German sanction practice. Primarily, the constitutional context including the interpretation of the principle of proportionality, data protection rules and the state monopoly on legitimate use of force are major factors. Other factors also include historical development, technical issues and prior research.
Next, we will be comparing Germany’s specific approach to EM with our partners from Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.
Christoph Thiele is a Researcher in Criminology and Doctoral Student and Prof. Dr. Frieder Dünkel is the Chair of Criminology at the University of Greifswald (@wissen_lockt), Germany. They both work on the German component of the EU ‘Creativity and Effectiveness in the Use of Electronic Monitoring in Europe’ (@) research project.