Volume 18, Number 1
John Howard Society of Alberta 2000-2001 Project Highlights………………………………. Page 3 Notice of Annual General Meeting………………………… Page 4 Contact us……………………………………………………… Page 4
In this issue of The Reporter, we continue our examination of community based sentences.
lectronic monitoring is becomingmore and more popular as a means of supervising and controlling correctional clients in the community. Following a discussion of the history of electronic monitoring and the types of electronic monitoring that exist in Canada, we turn our attention to the various issues surrounding this correctional initiative and invite you, once again, to consider the long term policy implications associatedwith the use of community based criminal justice. A BRIEF HISTORY: FROM SPIDERMAN TO CORRECTIONAL DEVICE The first electronic monitoring device was developed in the mid-1960s by Harvard psychologist Robert Schwitzgebel, who considered the device to be a humane and inexpensive alternative to custody for many people involved in the justice process. In 1977, Judge Jack Love of Albuquerque, New Mexicowas inspired by an episode in the Spiderman comic book series to explore the possible use of electronic monitoring for offenders. Spiderman, the comic book hero, had been tagged with a device that allowed a villain to track his every move. In 1983, Love sentenced the first offender to house arrest with electronic monitoring. Today, over 95,000 people in the United States participate in electronicmonitoring programs. Use of electronic monitoring is much more limited in Canada, but it is growing. WHY ELECTRONIC MONITORING? Electronic monitoring is intended to reduce custody rates while providing a greater degree of supervision for offenders in the community. Since the cost of monitoring an offender is lower than the cost of housing him or her in a correctional facility,
JOHN HOWARDSOCIETY OF ALBERTA
electronic monitoring should also save tax dollars. TYPES OF ELECTRONIC MONITORING Equipment. Most electronic monitoring devices do not, at present, track an individual’s movement. Rather, they simply confirm whether the subject is at an approved place at approved times. There are currently two main types of electronic monitoring equipment: continuously signaling andprogrammed contact. In a continuously signaling (or “active”) system, a transmitter is strapped to the subject and it broadcasts a coded signal over a telephone line at regular intervals. A receiver/dialer picks up signals from the subject’s transmitter and reports to a central computer when the signals stop and start. The computer compares any signal interruptions with the subject’s curfew scheduleand alerts correctional officials to unauthorized absences. In a programmed contact (or “passive”) system, a computer is programmed to call the subject at random or specific times and then report on the results of the calls. Programmed contact devices are referred to as “passive” because the subject’s presence is only noted when the computer calls him or her. Global positioning satellite (GPS)technology, which allows a correctional client to be precisely located, is available in Canada but it is still in the very early stages of development. Programs. Electronic monitoring may be used on a variety of offender and suspect groups and situations. Individuals who are accused but not convicted may participate in electronic monitoring while they await trial. Monitoring at the pre-trial stageallows offenders to return to their homes to await trial, rather than spend weeks or months in custody. Participation in electronic monitoring after conviction is determined
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either by the courts or by correctional authorities. Participants may include offenders on conditional sentences, probation,...