Friday, 7 October 2016

Scotland Leading on Tagging

This from the BBC Scotland website:- 

Proposals to increase use of electronic tags in Scotland

The Scottish government is proposing a radical extension of the ways electronic tags can be used on offenders, BBC Scotland has learned. Sobriety tags, GPS tracking and tagging as an alternative to remand would be used in Scotland for the first time. Sobriety tags, which respond to the ethanol levels in a person's sweat, are among the pilots to be announced. They would be used as an alternative to prison for those who offend under the influence of alcohol. The changes will require new regulations and legislation.

Under the proposals, other pilots will be announced in the next couple of months. All the proposals have been recommended by the expert working group on electronic monitoring, which was created by the Scottish government two years ago.

Tagging has been available in Scotland for almost 15 years and used predominantly to confine offenders to their homes overnight as an alternative to prison or under early release from jail - referred to as Home Detention Curfew. There are currently more than 1,000 offenders tagged in Scotland. But under the proposals, in future, tagging will be used as an alternative to remand in prison and as a condition of bail. And GPS tracking will be used for the first time to monitor certain offenders' movements.

Another option is "voluntary" electronic monitoring for offenders willing to work with agencies to try to stop shoplifting, housebreaking and gang involvement. The report also calls for monitoring alongside social work support.

Robert Johnson has been tagged more than once. On one occasion he was sent to Barlinnie prison for drugs offences and released early on Home Detention Curfew. Now 35, he says he has grown up and that he has not offended for more than two years. He says that being tagged gave him the time and opportunity to re-connect with friends. He has now started up a café with some of them.

"When I was in prison I was ashamed and embarrassed and I didn't want my children to see me there in a place like that. Every dad wants to be superman to their children and I didn't want them to see me there, to see me exposed. Being at home with a tag and being able to spend time with my family and start looking at education and work, and being with my children, money can't buy something like that."

He added: "In prison you're left in your cell for 23 hours a day locked up with not a lot to do and the chances are if you do do something it's not going to be something worthwhile. On Home Detention Curfew you can be home with your family and your children and start rebuilding your life."

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he wanted Scotland to look to the system used in the Netherlands which focuses on outcomes and support. He hopes the extension of tagging will form part of extensive changes to the whole penal system.

"Rather than just deciding on what kind of electronic monitoring they're going to use, they work out what they're trying to achieve first of all and then look at whether electronic monitoring would help to achieve that aim," he said.

"And it could be different types. It could be GPS or the radio system which we have at the present time. We want to focus on outcomes. "The report highlights that we could use electronic monitoring in a much more effective way, for example, for individuals remanded into custody."

Angela Smith, service director at G4S Monitoring Technologies & Services in Scotland, said the new system would mean that the numbers of offenders tagged across the country in the future could be "unlimited".

"This is not a soft option. It is a restriction placed not only on offenders but also on their families," she said. "But it does allow them to stay with their families and maintain their jobs and keep relationships together."

In England and Wales electronic monitoring has faced some controversy with a number of high-profile cases in which tagged offenders have been caught committing further crimes. In 2010 a man wearing an electronic tag in Manchester was left dead in his flat for weeks before his body was found.

Stirling University criminologist Hannah Graham said: "England and Wales have had some issues and scandals with their uses of electronic monitoring, whereas Scotland's approach has stayed fairly simple, stable and small in scale. "The expert group's recommendations imply Scotland will take a more European approach, learning from the Dutch and Scandinavians as leading examples of how to use electronic monitoring well. There's evidence to suggest this is a better and bolder direction for us to pursue. But it's difficult to predict how much the use of tagging will increase because this depends on whether these recommended changes are embraced by decision-makers such as sheriffs, some of whom barely use it currently."

She added: "There's an acute need to reduce Scotland's disproportionately high prison population - making better use of electronic monitoring within community sentences offers one way of trying to do this."

Mike Nellis, Emeritus professor of law at Strathclyde University, previously worked as a social worker with young offenders. He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme that tagging should be used in conjunction with other services. "The technology by itself is very limited if you're trying to change any type of behaviour. Certainly, if we're talking about people with alcohol problems, they have to have the services to help them deal with their alcohol problems."

He added: "Some people are given a sense of self-discipline by having to wear the alcohol monitoring device or indeed any other form of electronic monitoring devices, and I think part of the art of using electronic devices wisely and well is to help people to understand that this is something that they can use to assist them on their journey of desistance."

Scottish Conservative justice secretary spokesman Douglas Ross said there was a place for electronic tagging but he could not accept the "creeping expansion" replacing custodial sentences for serious criminals. He said: "We saw in recent weeks how some rapists have been escaping jail and instead handed community sentences. That's an indication that, when the Scottish government insists on an alternative form of punishment, it inevitably gets used on the wrong people. In order to retain public confidence in tagging, this expansion will have to be monitored exceptionally closely."

Scottish Labour's justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said Scotland has one of the highest prison populations in Europe and called for credible and robust alternatives.

"However, for tagging to work both the courts and the general public must have confidence in it as an alternative," she added. "Without that we will still see people sent to prison on remand or for short sentences. Therefore the Scottish Government must ensure that electronic tagging is fully resourced and monitored, yet with cuts to the budgets of the police, our courts, and local authorities, this will be challenging."


The full report can be found here.

Executive Summary 

Although there has been considerable geographical variation it its use, electronic monitoring (EM) has been nationally available in Scotland since 2002, largely as a standalone measure, using radio frequency (RF) technology to enforce home confinement in the context of various legally specified orders. It has been delivered by a private sector service provider contracted to central government. Within the parameters originally set for it, EM has been delivered to a high standard, but it has not been used strategically to meet judicial, penal and social work goals. Crucially, only in some instances has its use been integrated with other criminal justice interventions. This lack of integration is anomalous when compared with EM use in mainland Europe, where EM is usually embedded in the work of probation services. The Scottish Government‘s desire for greater integration of EM and support services, both statutory and third sector, aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and desistance, was the starting point for review of and public consultation about EM in 2013. The present Working Group emerged from this review and consultation. 

Consideration of the potential of two emerging EM technologies – satellite tracking using the Global Positioning System (GPS) and trans-dermal alcohol monitoring (TAM) – also underpinned the review. The Working Group reflected further on this, settling on the view that it is the penal, judicial and social work goals which technology can be used to achieve, rather than the technology itself. It was accepted that while the existing RF-based home confinement still served a useful penal purpose, it had not been used as flexibly or as creatively as it could have been. GPS technology offers new possibilities for monitoring movement-in-general (not just presence in a single place as RF does), as well as the creation and oversight of exclusion and inclusion zones, of variable size, to restrict movement and offer greater degrees of protection to victims of crime than are usually available in existing forms of community supervision. Trans-dermal alcohol monitoring can support and enforce prohibitions on alcohol use rather than monitoring locations and schedules, although it can also be combined with those. 

The Working Group sought to envision a new strategy for EM-use in Scotland, utilising existing and new technologies and grounded in the needs, interests and aspirations of various agencies and organisations involved in the criminal justice process, including victims of crime. This envisioning was guided by a review of international research evidence on EM specially commissioned by the Scottish Government, and by the findings of an EU funded comparative research project on EM in which Scotland took part. Because EM (in all its forms) is itself a digital technology, some cues were taken from Scotland‘s existing 1Digital Strategy for Justice. In deliberating on the just, proportionate and effective use of EM the Working Group drew on the Council of Europe‘s (2014) ―ethical Recommendation‖ on EM, which is strongly, but not exclusively, grounded in the potential of EM to reduce the inappropriate use of imprisonment. The Working Group similarly emphasised EM‘s potential as a form of control to support the Scottish Government‘s desire to reduce the use of short custodial sentences, to strengthen rehabilitative and re-integrative measures and to offer hitherto unavailable forms of protection to victims of crime. 

The new strategy, which will continue to be based on a nationally commissioned and contracted monitoring service, requires legislative change. It will make available all three EM technologies – RF, GPS and TAM – to sentencers and criminal justice agencies. There is an expectation of greatly reduced geographical variation in EM‘s future use. No assumption has been made – as some countries do - about the greater severity and intrusiveness of GPS tracking over RF-home confinement. The appeal of intensive GPS monitoring for high-risk sex offenders is intuitively clear, but not all such individuals may warrant its use: RF-home confinement has already worked effectively in a multi-agency public protection arrangement (MAPPA) context, and could continue to do so. GPS technology may also be used with lower risk individuals and ―voluntary consent‖ models of GPS tracking have been used (in England and Wales), and are not without merit. For some individuals, including young people, both RF and GPS can have preventative and protective functions which empower them to resist adverse peer pressure. 

In summary, the more strategic use of EM envisaged by the Working Group has three aspects: 

1. To use EM in more integrated ways, alongside a range of supportive measures, to help prevent and reduce further offending and promote desistance among people with convictions 
2. To enhance the protection and security of victims of crime in ways that other community interventions are unable to do 
3. By offering a greater degree of control in the community, to make the use of electronic monitoring more appealing to sentencers as an alternative to custody, in particular short-term sentences and remand. 

The Working Group strongly endorses an individualised rather than a categoric approach to the use of EM, based on a rounded risk-needs assessment, and a clear sense of the goals to which EM may, or may not, contribute. Proportionality is always an important consideration in any EM-intervention but this does not reside in the technology itself; rather, it resides in the intensity and duration of the schedules and requirements it is used to enforce, and the nature of the other supportive measures with which it may, or may not, be combined. Different intensities of EM and variable combinations with other measures can be used at different points on the sentencing tariff, to meet different goals for different individuals. The variety of new ―community uses‖ of EM and specific legal frameworks in which it should in future be used are listed in Recommendations 5 and 7. The Group commends further consideration of the still underused ―movement restriction orders‖ in a youth justice context. 

EM is a versatile form of control which can be imposed either as punishment or to support rehabilitative purposes. The use of EM as a standalone punishment should remain a legitimate sentencing option. However, in its various forms EM should now become integrated with measures with a proven track record of preventing and reducing further offending which assist individuals to desist from crime. Some research evidence shows that EM has a crime reduction effect in itself, for the duration of the monitoring period, but that if longer term desistance is required it must be combined with measures which help individuals to change their behaviour. In individual cases, EM should be used, by judicial and penal authorities, in a goaloriented and person-centred way, tailored to achieve specific purposes, including the protection of victims of crime. 

Against the background of a persistently high remand population, the new EM strategy should reconsider the use of monitoring at the pre-trial stage, using both RF and GPS technology as appropriate. Exclusion and inclusion zones enabled by the latter offer new possibilities for meeting the goals of bail. Whilst standalone use of EM at the pre-trial stage is wholly legitimate, experience suggests that bail support would be required in some instances to assist with compliance. The Working Group suggests that both forms of EM be considered for non-compliance with bail related offences, supervised bail, bail undertakings and investigative liberation. 

EM is already available to penal as well as judicial authorities in Scotland, in the form of Home Detention Curfew (HDC) and Parole licence. This should continue, with all forms of EM available – RF, GPS and TAM – according to a risk-needs assessment. In addition EM could in future be utilised within the prison estate, to test those prisoners on the margins of acceptable risk, in order to facilitate work placement, home leave, female community custody units and community access from closed establishments. Given perennial public anxiety about all forms of prisoner release, the use of EM in this context could be an important means of increasing public confidence. 

Compliance with and enforcement of monitoring requirements must vary both according to the nature of the violation and the purpose of the order. Where rehabilitative goals are being pursued, the response to a violation of an EM requirement must take account of the progress made towards those wider goals. A two tier approach for responding to violations, standardised and intensive, reflecting the above distinction, will be made available to sheriffs. Overall, evidence suggests that monitored people and their families can find the experience onerous but still to be preferred to imprisonment. Some evidence acknowledges that stand-alone EM can create undue stress and strain for co-residents which more integrated approaches may be able to reduce. As in other areas of community supervision, the ―user voice‖ – in this instance, both monitored individuals and co-residents - can be an important source of insight into what makes a judicial or penal requirement legitimate and feasible to complete. Creative, evidence-based ways of incentivising compliance should be developed. 

The implementation of the new EM strategy must build on the work begun in the Working Group to increase knowledge and capacity of how EM could and should be used. This has included the creation of a cross-sector champion‘s group whose members have developed a deeper understanding of EM‘s potential, although this does not preclude the need for additional training across all relevant agencies. CJSW Standards and IT systems have been revised to facilitate the potential of EM to contribute to the goals of supervision. More fundamentally, a communication strategy has been devised and agreed by all partners to better engage stakeholders in debate about future uses of EM, and to promote a common understanding of the goals that can be achieved with it. The Working Group seeks to change how EM has traditionally been considered and used in Scotland: this task must continue beyond the life of the Working Group itself. This report is not the ―final word‖ on the future of EM in Scotland, and beyond its specific proposals and Recommendations, it also aspires to stimulate further thinking among key stakeholders – especially sentencers, police, prison service, criminal justice social workers, youth justice social workers, third sector, victim advocacy organisations - as to how good practice with EM can be taken forward. In response to both this report and the Ministerial recommendations which will follow from it, the Working Group recommends that, each stakeholder group should be encouraged to develop formal ―statement of intent‖ regarding EMs future use. 

The EM in Scotland Working Group commends this report to Scottish Ministers and urges that early action be taken against the recommendations in a manner which is both ambitious and inclusive of all partners required to move the agenda forward at pace.


  1. I'm speechless! What can you say when a corrupt company (G4S) can defraud the Public by tagging dead people, abuse young people in custody and immigration centres are still being used by governments as contractors for tagging scheme in Scotland. Someone should have been jailed over the fiasco and yet they attract more lucrative contracts by governments. Absolutely shocking!

    1. I am not defending G4S and the abuses as catalogued are real. But private companies have no monopoly on corrupt and abusive practices. I think of South Yorkshire police in relation to Hillsborough and Orgreave and of all the deaths in police custody across the country.

      I think of all the historic child abuse that occurred when children were in the care of the public authorities and the not-for-profit church authorities. I think of the BBC and Saville and all the missed opportunities to act. And of the 20 million already paid out by the MoD – who only pay out when the case is overwhelming or they want to cover something up - in cases of soldier abuse of Iraqis.

      It's all shocking stuff and it's not explained by whether the provision is public or private.

  2. When I worked on Prolific and Priority team, PPOs often enquired about electronic monitoring rather than Police monitored curfew so that they and family could get a good nights sleep without interruption. Additionally some saw GPS as technology that would lessen Police suspicion of their involvement in crime with result that they felt less harrassed. I think that electronic monitoring used in conjunction with support and used as a flexible enabler rather than wholly as a restriction or confinement has usefulness.

  3. That's the point, though. The money for paying for these tags is NOT being spend on rehabilitation. So you get containment on the cheap and no rehabilitative interventions. A waste of public money.

    1. Fundamentally agree although confinement on the cheap as an alternative to custody for purposes of public protection has merit too in some cases but not as a universal go to option.

  4. I sometimes feel bemused (and angry) at the amount of resources time and money that gets spent developing methods of confining and detaining people as a way of controlling their behaviour. Controlling behaviour does not in my book by itself equal rehabilitation. I don't pretend to know the answer, but surely more emphasis needs to put on changing people's attitudes and outlooks rather then simply trying to control them?

    Doesn't fit with today's blog, but this article about everybody's friend Sodexo may be of interest to some.


  5. I haven't read the article yet. All I know from working with service users over the years is that some find the type of tag which forces you to stay at home st night helpful for a period as a way of helping themselves towards a measure of self control, a less harmful lifestyle, giving themselves the time they need to be quiet at home, have some early nights, speak to their family, get used to being out in the community again. People who come out of prison without hdc have sometimes asked me if could arrange a stay at home tag for them to help in this way, especially the young ones, and of course I can't. Then we get into other ways we can keep ourselves out of harms way, all valid and essential, but a little harder too, especially at the start. But you are right, none of this need cost the earth. What matters most is how we use it all. The IOMs I have worked with have sometimes volunteered the GPS tags provided by police in our area, and I find tags generally are at their most effective when they are viewed by their wearers as a helpful tool on the way towards a life free from offending.

  6. An MP has voiced concerns over ‘staff shortages and increasing violence’ at prisons managed by a private firm. Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said he is concerned about the welfare of staff at five jails run by Sodexo Justice Service, including HMP Northumberland.

    The Acklington prison has been embroiled in scandal since it was put under the control of the firm in December 2013.

    In August, insiders claimed staff had “lost control of the jail” after two officers were attacked, with one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket. The vicious assaults came just months after an inmate allegedly took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade. Whistle-blowers have also made claims about a string of similar incidents at other jails managed by Sodexo.

    Now Mr Lavery has called on the firm to “step up” and invest in its facilities or return the prisons to public control. He said: “There is clearly a pattern of underfunding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons. This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons. It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders. We need a prison system that supports staff and provides opportunities for rehabilitation, not one that drives up reoffending and leaves staff dangerously isolated.”

    In July an insider at HMP Forest Bank in Salford, which is also managed by Sodexo, claimed staff were scared to stand up to inmates due to fear of reprisals. It came after one warden was beaten by an inmate so severely he was left with two fractured eye sockets and a broken nose. A spokesman for HMP Forest Bank confirmed an officer was assaulted but insisted the prison was safe and well-run.

    The staff member said: “The prisoner had been put into segregation and then just went for him. He punched and head-butted him. He had a broken nose and two fractured eye sockets. It’s awful. There are all drugs and mobile phones coming in which is causing so many problems. This is adding more to the attacks that are happening in the prison. It’s getting beyond a joke. I have seen staff assaulted in the past and not come back to work.”

    In August, a report carried out by the Independent Monitoring Boards found violent attacks at HMP Peterborough had increased over the past year. It said the rise in incidents at the prison coincided with the increase in the jail’s population.

    The report said: “It is noted that the incidence of violence, particularly in the men’s prison, has increased. “The average number of serious assaults each month was four. The increase coincided with population pressures and the admission of a number of prisoners diverted to HMP Peterborough.”

    And in December last year, inspectors raised concerns about levels of staffing and staff deployment at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian, Scotland.

    A report by David Strang, HM chief inspector of prisons, said: “There was a constructive approach to the care of all prisoners. Vulnerable prisoners were well looked after. However, there were concerns about levels of staffing within the prison and the staff deployment arrangements.”

    A Sodexo Justice Service spokesman said: “Staff in all prisons face the challenge of violence. We have a robust approach to monitoring safety and we continually review what we can do to make improvements. We have a good record of positive prisoner staff relationships and has recently participated as a pilot prison in the violence reduction initiative led by the National Offender Management Service in the use of body worn video cameras and these are now being rolled out. Safety is always a priority and we have a number of plans in place to address this issue.”

    Sodexo also manages HMP Bronzefield in Surrey - the first private finance initiatives (PFI) prison which was built specifically for women.

  7. As someone pointed out a while back, if the driver for adopting new technology and making changes in the rehabilitative services, and the prisons, was to rehabilitate, then all this stuff would be so promising, but it isn't. Its about cutting budgets. A mixture of control: curfews, monitoring etc. - and support: supervision founded on good relationships and the space to take a serious respectful interest in an individual, would be powerful stuff, especially if in a political and social atmosphere where the imperative was to decimate our use of prisons.

  8. Ah. Relationships work both ways. The majority of Probation employees are scared to death to talk about their own lives. Tagging is the future. Keep vulnerable Offenders away from vouyeristic Probation Officers.

    1. Don't be is, or should be a professional wouldn't expect your doctor or dentist to have personal relationships with those they work with other than in a professional capacity.....Bobbyjoe

    2. Well, GP's and Psychiatrists tend to have a slightly larger educational experience than Probation Officers, allowing for a greater degree of trust and professionalism. Dentists are generally there to deal with physical symptoms concerning teeth. All have a higher level of education than anybody employed by Probation. Probation Officers tend to display zero life experience. You are all so full of shit and the only ones that can slightly see that have done the good thing and resigned. TR and its results are due to the weak minded who have made their lives Probation. You all deserved what has happened due to your own actions. Proffesional relationship is a smokescreen for yourselves to sooth the reality that of all the people you believe you have helped very few when asked would agree.

  9. Indeed how many Probation Officers ex or current continue their relationships with Offenders after expiry of the court order? If not is there a chance that Probation Officers over estimate the importance of themselves in desistance?