Professor Kristel Beyens and Marijke Roosen published an article on the introduction of GPS as an alternative for pre-trial detention in Belgium in a special isssue on ‘GPS Tracking of Offenders’ of the Journal of Technology in Human Services
In a recent report, Professor Kristel Beyens and researcher Marijke Roosen offer a critical perspective of the use of Electronic Monitoring in Belgium. The article discusses the shift from Electronic Monitoring being a rehabilitative tool to one with a more retributive focus.
The newspaper De Standaard published an article on electronic monitoring, based on the research of Kristel Beyens and Marijke Roosen. The article discusses the diminishing support for the biggest group of persons under electronic monitoring in Belgium, leading to frustrations with those who are subjected to it.
The March edition of quarterly School of Law newsletter “The Liberty Brief” highlighted the dissemination work of the Electronic Monitoring in Europe project.
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.
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.
Hannah Graham and Gill McIvor, University of Stirling, Scotland
We are currently undertaking the empirical fieldwork for the EU EM project as it relates to Scotland which – although part of the UK – has a completely distinctive and devolved criminal justice system. In Scotland, there are several different types of community-based orders and licences that act as alternatives to custody, or as opportunities for decarceration and release from custody. Electronic monitoring (EM) is available as a condition of early release from prison (Home Detention Curfew) and parole and it can also be used to monitor a community-based Restriction of Liberty Order (RLO) as a standalone option or in parallel with a Community Payback Order. In Scotland, radio frequency (RF) tagging is the only type of electronic monitoring technology currently in use, and it is mostly combined with a curfew restriction (as opposed to a restriction away from condition).
There are, however, some modest institutional differences in the use of Home Detention Curfews with prisoners and some wider geographical differences in the use of EM within other types of community-based orders across Scotland. To contextualise this, Scotland’s population of approximately 5.3 million people is comparative to the populations of Finland, Slovakia and Norway. Scotland is similar in total land area size to Austria and the Czech Republic. However, Scotland’s geography and the spread of its population is diverse, and the way in which criminal justice is structured in Scotland is based on a relatively localised approach, involving local authorities (Councils). Informed by existing statistics, as well as the perspectives and experiences of research participants, in part, our research seeks to better understand how and why geographic and institutional diversity in the use of EM across Scotland exists. Furthermore, some parts of Scotland are quite remote, meaning they are a significant travel distance from major centres and may also have intermittent coverage/signal for phones and other devices. These types of considerations and contextual factors are relevant to our research questions about how the use of current (RF) and new (GPS) EM technologies might potentially be developed in Scotland in the future.
Our part of the project is proceeding steadily: we have almost completed our observations (delayed slightly by a bad bout of flu) and are in the process of conducting interviews with a range of relevant stakeholders. Gaining access has been a little slower than anticipated but we now have agreement to participate by all of the stakeholder groups which we approached, and are conducting fieldwork in a number of different parts of the country. We are keen in particular to identify variations in the use of EM in different areas – both in the level of usage and more particularly in the way in which it is used – especially in relation to the creative use of curfew hours.
Our observations of EM in practice – covering both the National EM Centre and field visits – have provided rich data and interesting insights into the day to day operation of EM in Scotland and have, for example, begun to highlight issues relating to diversity – including gender, disability, ethnicity and age – and how they are responded to. Diversity is one lens, among others, which is helpful in our ongoing analysis of research data. It highlights the importance of those directly involved in EM identifying and co-producing more tailored and integrated responses to monitored people as individuals, within the parameters of legislative provisions and guided by EU frameworks and recommendations. It is already becoming clear that a one size approach to electronic monitoring does not fit all, and justice is best pursued with a relentless view of its purposes.
The timing of the EU project has also been fortuitous in that the award of the contract for it coincided with the publication by the Scottish Government of a consultation on the development of electronic monitoring in Scotland in autumn 2013. The EM consultation responses have now been published and the Scottish Government has, in turn, published its response. A Working Group on Electronic Monitoring was established by the Scottish Government in the autumn of 2014. A parallel piece of work that we have been commissioned to undertake for the Scottish Government (on behalf of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research: www.sccjr.ac.uk) is reviewing international developments in the use of electronic monitoring for different types of offender, for different types of offences and with the use of different types of technology. It is hoped that this work will provide useful for the Working Group as it considers how the use of EM might be developed in Scotland to enhance its creativity and effectiveness.
Dr Hannah Graham is a Research Fellow in Criminology (Twitter: @DrHannahGraham), and Prof. Gill McIvor is a Professor of Criminology and Co-Director in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (@TheSCCJR), at the University of Stirling, Scotland. They both work on the Scottish component of the EU ‘Creativity and Effectiveness in the Use of Electronic Monitoring in Europe’ (@EMintheEU) research project.
EMEU Partners at the COST* International Conference on Compliance, Enforcement and Breach, 17-18 April 2015, Athens, Greece.
The conference reported on the continuing work of the international research network (COST Action 1106) on ‘offender supervision in Europe’. All EMEU project partners are members of the ‘Decision-making working group’ of the Action. The focus of the conference was on issues of compliance with, and enforcement of, the supervision of offenders and ex-offenders in the community.
Prof. Kristel Beyens chaired the first plenary session which examined different models of compliance and explored the dynamics of compliance, enforcement and breach.
Prof. Miranda Boone presented the work of the decision-making group of the Action which is exploring the decision-making processes involved in non-compliance and breach events related to community sentences and parole through the use of vignettes.
Prof. Hucklesby’ s closing plenary presentation focused on the possible futures of the use of electronic monitoring for offender supervision in Europe.
To learn more about the conference in general, please click here.
*COST = European Cooperation in Science and Technology. For more information, please visit: http://www.cost.eu/
EMEU partners met in Stirling to discuss the fieldwork completed to date and initial findings. The project welcomed Dr Hannah Graham who recently joined the project as a Researcher for the University of Stirling. Hannah is also a Research Fellow in Criminology in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) at the University of Stirling.
New Council of Europe Report on Standards and Ethics in Electronic Monitoring, Wednesday 11 March 2015
Following their newly adopted Recommendation (CM/Rec(2014)4) on Electronic Monitoring (February 2014), the Council of Europe (CoE) has published a report on “Ethics and Standards in EM”.
This report, written by Prof. Mike Nellis (member of our project Advisory Board), was prepared on the basis of the discussion at the multilateral meeting on electronic monitoring, held in Strasbourg on 27-28 November 2014.
The report aims to expand on and clarify the issues examined at this meeting. It also aims to stimulate more discussion to help particular countries find their own way in EM within the CoE Framework.
The report was written with particular reference to the basic principles related to ethical and professional standards regulating the use of EM in the criminal justice process, as defined in the newly adopted Recommendation on electronic monitoring.
The report is also available in French and English on the CoE Website.