Matthijs van der Kooij & Stephanie Rap
In the Netherlands, the probation service always conducts a feasibility study (‘haalbaarheidsonderzoek’) before electronic monitoring is imposed. The feasibility study consists of a visit to the house where the participant will live when (s)he is on EM. An example of a home visit as it was observed during this research is detailed below. It provides an account from the perspective of the co-habitants of someone under EM and it shows the impact EM has on co-habitants.
Before conducting the home visit, the probation officer has asked the district police officer if there are any particular issues with regard to the home address and the cohabitants of the defendant. In the past, the district police officer was asked whether they agreed with the electronic monitoring, but the probation officer indicates that district police officers are generally not enthusiastic about the idea that offenders, who they have arrested, will end up at home with a tag. That is why the probation officer does not ask this question anymore and solely asks for any ‘particular issues’. At the time of the visit he has not yet received a response from the district police officer.
The defendant is in remand and his mother and sister are present at the home visit. The mother has a poor command of Dutch, therefore, the probation officer addresses the sister of the defendant. The feasibility study is aimed at investigating the practicability of EM after the verdict. The probation officer indicates that, given the severity of the charges against him, it is probable that if convicted, he will receive a long custodial sentence. Therefore it is possible that there will be a lengthy period of time between the feasibility study and the actual start of EM. The probation officer first checks whether the mother and sister are aware of the charges the person is being accused of. The sister explains to the probation officer that they are very well informed. She tells what happened and indignantly states that the victim and his family brought the case as retribution of a business conflict. She is indignant about the fact that her brother is labelled a serious criminal. The suspicion concerns threats of violence and serious maltreatment. The probation officer indicates that he does not know any details about the case and also has not spoken to the defendant. He suggests that they will have to wait for the judge’s decision. He emphasises that this visit is aimed at investigating the practicality of EM at this address. He asks whether they would have any objections against having the defendant living at their home with EM. They do not fully seem to understand why this question is being asked. The probation officer clarifies that the days on which their son/brother does not have any daily activities and during the weekends, he will have to be at home most of the time which also might have some impact on their daily life. They state that they do not have any problems with that. The probation officer asks whether there have any unpaid rent or household bills. They reply that this is not the case. The probation officer explains that this is important to know because if the power is being cut off the EM-equipment would cease to function. The probation officer asks for permission to look around all the rooms in the house. While this is happening the sister says that she thinks this is a bit strange. The probation officer acknowledges that it is a bit strange to look around in someone’s house, but emphasises that it is important to know if the house is suitable for the equipment and if it is possible to charge the EM equipment. There has to be a socket near the bed of the participant as they must be able to charge the tag at night. The sister indicates that the defendant was looking for another home before his arrest and she asks whether it is actually possible that the defendant moves to a new address during EM. The probation officer indicates that this will be possible if a feasibility study is undertaken at this address and reveals no problems. The probation officer furthermore asks whether the mother and sister have any further questions or uncertainties. They do not have any and the probation officer and I say goodbye and leave the address.
Matthijs van der Kooij, Ma and Dr. Stephanie Rap (Utrecht University) work on the Dutch component of the EU ‘Creativity and Effectiveness in the Use of Electronic Monitoring in Europe’ (@EMintheEU) research project.