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Electronic monitoring of prisoners to be introduced

The Irish Prison Service has put the contract to provide the system out to tender.

Image: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE GOVERNMENT IS looking to introduce electronic monitoring for prisoners who are on temporary release in Ireland.

The Irish Prison Service has put forward a tender notice on the e-tenders website, searching for a company who can provide such a service through satellite tracking.

The deadline date to apply for the contract is 28 May.

The tender comes after a successful pilot project examined the whole area of electronic tagging, which was provided for in law by the Criminal Justice Act of 2006.

Since August 2010, the Irish Prison Service has tested the use of the technology on 31 prisoners who were on temporary release.

Minister Alan Shatter said the group were “carefully selected” by using a range of criteria including the nature of the offence, public safety and overall conduct while serving their jail term.

Prisoner compliance was high during the trial and only one person was recalled because of a curfew violation.

Since the pilot concluded, seven prisoners have been tagged – most of whom were suffering from ill health.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust said it was keeping an open mind on the issue of electronic tagging.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, the Trust’s director Liam Herrick said that such a system may “serve a function in specific circumstances”.

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He warned, however, that tagging can only tell where somebody is – not what they are doing.

The contract being tendered out by the Irish Prison Service will only cover those already in Irish prisons and will not be an alternative punishment for the courts to use instead of jail time.

Currently, Britain and Sweden use it in the place of prison sentence in some cases. This has led to a drop in the number of prisoners in Sweden but has not impacted on the costs incurred by the British criminal justice system.

Temporary release of prisoners is seen as a way of gradually reintegrating offenders back into society, according to Shatter. There are about 1,000 prisoners out on temporary release in Ireland.

Minister Shatter is currently waiting on the IPS’s viability study of electronic management of prisoners, as well as a cost-benefit analysis. That review will be considered in the contest of the Strategic Plan 2012-2014.

Temporary release of prisoners ‘reduces risk to the community’ – Shatter>

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