Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pilot project to test inmate monitoring

OTTAWA—High-risk offenders in Ontario and Quebec are among the inmates slated to take part in a federal prison service pilot project to test the effectiveness of electronic monitoring devices.
Research data will be collected for at least two years before a decision is taken on further use of the devices, to be worn by offenders completing sentences in the community.

The Canadian Press obtained internal memos about the planned pilot project—which is months behind schedule—under the Access to Information Act.
The government announced plans for the pilot early last year despite opposition from the NDP, which questioned the cost.
In a September, 2012 report, a majority of the Commons’ public safety committee recommended that the Correctional Service look into broader use of monitoring, which usually involves an ankle bracelet that can be tracked electronically from a central facility.
However, the NDP disagreed, saying the government’s own witnesses made it clear the devices are not effective for low-risk offenders.
Only medium- or high-risk male offenders out on statutory release (the final one-third of their sentence), or subject to a long-term supervision order, will be eligible to take part in the pilot, said a September, 2013 Correctional Service memo to regional deputy commissioners.
The Ontario and Quebec regions were selected because they have the largest number of high-risk offenders with special conditions imposed on their release, the memo added.
Offenders who agree to participate in the research will be randomly-assigned to one of two groups: those fitted with a device or those without one.
The prison service tested monitoring devices from 2008-11, but did not gauge their “effectiveness and efficiency,” the memo said.
Legislation passed by the Conservatives gives the prison service authority to demand that an offender who leaves prison on temporary absence, work release, parole, statutory release, or long-term supervision wear a monitoring device.
The bracelets can be programmed to send an alert if the offender violates a release condition prohibiting them from being in certain places.
Officials see the tool as a means of overcoming the challenges of monitoring offenders who have been ordered to abide by a curfew, or to avoid schools, parks, bars, or known gang areas.
Correctional Service notes on the current project, prepared last November, say it will examine the cost-effectiveness of electronic monitoring, changes in offender behaviour, staff experiences with the devices, and any additional “intended and unintended” consequences.

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