Australian Institute of Criminology

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Electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system

Media Release

22 July 2003

Numerous people who would otherwise be in prison or under the supervision of correctional authorities have their movements and whereabouts monitored electronically.

The use of electronic monitoring has the potential to improve the cost-effectiveness of correctional programs, provide enhanced opportunities for offender rehabilitation and extend the range of sentences available to the courts.

However, despite the fact that electronic monitoring has been in use for at least two decades, there are many legal, ethical and practical issues to resolve. This is the major finding from a paper released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

"This paper reviews developments in electronic monitoring in criminal justice settings in Australia and identifies the arguments for and against their use at a time when technology can provide solutions that previously were impractical", said Dr Adam Graycar, AIC Director, when releasing the paper. "Noting that the average cost of keeping people in prison for a year is $56 000, this technology has the potential to reduce prison populations", he said.

The paper considers three principal rationales behind the use of electronic monitoring:

  • detention - to ensure that the individual remains in a designated place
  • restriction - to ensure that an individual does not enter proscribed areas, or approach particular people etc and
  • surveillance - to track a person's location continuously without actually restricting their movements.