September 2012 articles archive:

What is the real potential for electronic tagging?

Tagging seems to be here to stay but it sounds as though this could be an area where improvements are long overdue if is to be seen as an effective sentencing option.

 Tagging was first tried out in Manchester, Reading and Norwich between 1995 and 1997 before being introduced on a larger scale in 1999. Recently there has been a spate of articles suggesting that much more could be done to make use of tagging as a sentencing measure to reduce crime. It seems as though the problem rests with the lack of technological advances as well as the suggestion that there is a lack of an incentive to improve the situation which is strange bearing in mind that we are constantly reminded that our prisons are near to breaking point.

The National Audit Office has recently referred to the financial implications of the record prison population of 86,000 in England and Wales and this comes at a time when there is open speculation to the effect that an improved electronic tagging system of offenders could have saved in the order of £883m over the last decade.

The views of the think tank, Policy Exchange, are that more effective use of tagging could be made. At present, instead of using the Probation Service who already supervise offenders under community orders, the system uses private sector companies. The suggestion is that a much more sensible provision would be for police and probation officers to keep track of offenders and play a greater part in recommending which criminals should be tagged. This is at a time when many are voicing concerns as to whether the government's goal of stabilising the prison population by 2015 can be met.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has been quoted as saying: “We are committed to ensuring electronic monitoring is an effective tool in supporting the punishment of offenders and helping make our communities safer and are already taking forward some of the proposals in this report.”

Tagging seems to be here to stay but it sounds as though this may be an area where improvements may be long overdue if it is to be seen as an effective sentencing option.


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